While Bo was off in his
own little world charging, Troy and Renee were helpless to watch
him forge yet another batch of pain. He, with his injury, was
paralyzed and she, trying to keep him off the wet floor, was
immobilized. The manufactured rainstorm had been loud, flashy,
and seemed to at least give Bo a headache. But it ultimately did
no damage. Now everybody was soaked and Troy and Renee were
stuck huddled together in a quarter-inch pool of water. Not
Wet as she was, and with
her back in a puddle, Renee had no time to be uncomfortable. She
clutched Troy tightly, making sure he stayed warm and as dry as
possible. While he was still alert, his arm was in bad shape,
and she had no way of telling if he was at risk of going into
shock or something. She did know that he was done using magic
until the injury could be treated. Once Bo was ready to go
again, somehow she was going to have to hold him off alone.
While still bracing Troy
to her left side, she readied her right arm. Bo was just about
done, and she held her focus on him, ignoring Troy's wincing,
some hell of a commotion going on downstairs and other random
things like the clock and ceiling tiles that often stole her
Her diligence not only
paid off, it saved her life. Bo didn't stand up after completing
his stock; he just launched a grenade at Renee without warning.
She saw it and got a shield up to intercept it. The surprise
attack failing, Bo stood and went more conventional, walking
slowly toward Renee and Troy with his remaining two stones.
Renee held her shield up
to absorb the second throw, whenever it would be. Bo stood over
the two, belabored for a moment, and faked a throw. Although
Renee flinched, the shield remained intact. So Bo just stood and
The continued spell
tolled Renee. Endurance wasn't one of her strong suits. Renee
had already used a good deal of energy helping Troy with his
makeshift tempest, so sustaining a useful shield for so long was
beginning to wear on her. Her breathing was heavy, her arm was
getting numb and she couldn't tell if the moisture on her
forehead was water or sweat.
“Hang in there, Renee,”
Troy mumbled under his breath. “Just get through this round.”
She wanted to ask 'then
what?' but her lungs wouldn't let her.
As if he heard her
anyway, he whispered, “Once he goes to recharge again, we'll
make a break for the stairs.”
Renee nodded. With no
feasible way to bring the brute down, retreat was fine by her.
And she knew she could resolve to survive two more throws. She
stared Bo in the eyes, making it clear to him that she was not
In response, Bo whipped
his second stone at her. The shield absorbed it, but Renee
yelped at the sudden throw. Startling as it was, she handled it.
One more and she and Troy were out of there. Fighting off the
signs of fatigue, she steeled herself, now more determined than
ever to save their asses.
Rather than stare down
Renee and wait for a moment of mental weakness, Bo stepped
around them, pacing to their right. Renee had trouble shifting
her arm, but if her training was right only a little adjustment
was necessary for the shield to cover the new location. She was
on this, she was okay, she was good...
Bo no longer cared. He
hooked his left foot around her outstretched arm. Despite her
efforts to resist, he easily out-muscled her and pinned her
wrist to the floor.
“No!” she shouted,
cringing. Bo put more pressure on her wrist.
He could have snapped it
if he wanted to. Instead, he watched her wince and writhe in
pain. The real damage would be in the stone he rolled around his
fingers. Bo held it out for Renee, waved it in front of her
eyes, pretended to drop it on her. Despite his stone face, he
seemed to enjoy his work.
Troy couldn't stand it.
He was barely capable of watching Bo torture Renee, much less do
anything about it. His arm was unusable and unbearable, his mind
struggling to withstand the pain and maintain focus. Neither of
the two had any input into his next move.
Pushing off his left
hand, he rolled on top of Renee, his back now facing Bo. Renee
was now effectively shielded, but she could only gasp and look
into Troy's fearful yet resolute eyes.
“Troy, no...” she
Short of breath, wincing
in pain and bracing himself for more, he replied, “Once he
recharges, go for the stairs.”
“It's okay,” he said,
his tone clearly suggesting otherwise. Staggered, he added, “No
sense you getting hurt too.”
Renee tried to look past
Troy at Bo. The demon was looking at them, clearly not okay with
this either as he tried to find an opening to hit Renee. A drop
of water fell off Troy's chin onto her neck. It was all so
sudden, so powerful, so hastily heroic that she couldn't stop
him. She wasn't sure she even wanted to, a thought that hushed
her given how quick and decisive and selfless the act was.
“Just try to find some
help and get back up here, 'kay?” he said. She almost cried.
Grunting unhappily, Bo
gave up on his pursuit to hit Renee instead. He'd have to settle
for punishing hero Troy. He hoisted the grenade up and aimed for
Then the door to the
stairwell opened. Bo looked over and saw a woman with a gun.
Before he could throw the grenade at her instead, she fired it.
That was the end of Bo's night. He fell backward, the stone
exploding harmlessly against the floor.
To Ellen, it happened so
fast that she only now could see what was going on. No thought
was necessary in stopping a man threatening her son. Now, she
realized the situation Troy and Renee were in, how desperate
they looked huddled together wet on the floor and how she
arrived just in time. Thinking froze her, choking her up and
preventing her from speaking.
It wasn't necessary.
Troy had seen enough of it. He was too surprised to say
anything, too elated to ponder it, and too close to her to need
anything more than a faint smile.
Renee, on the other
hand, broke out in exasperated giggles. Troy had risked his back
to try to save her, and Ellen actually did. Troy turned that
smile her way, and she responded by smiling back, throwing her
liberated arms around him and kissing him on the cheek. Then on
the other cheek. And then on the lips.
She pulled back, took a
breath, and paused. It wasn't enough. Renee went back up again,
this time holding her lips upon his and, after a few moments,
opening her mouth slightly. Troy did the same. After a prolong,
sustained kiss of a several seconds, Troy stopped. But only to
breathe. He leaned forward, forcing Renee's head back against
the floor and resuming the victory celebration.
Ellen had probably
thought of something to say by now, but she turned away. At the
moment, she doubted Troy was aware that she was standing so
close. She definitely didn't want to remind him. Gun lowered,
she turned her attention to the door and the hallway, determined
not to let anyone disturb her son's living.
The moment was
emotional. A strong, selfless move on his part to shield her
from danger, followed by a stroke of good fortune to spare both
of them. Their battle had been won and Renee was excited by it.
No matter how it came about, she was there with Troy in the heat
of everything and she was loving it. Also keep in mind that the
two were laying on top of each other and dripping wet. So they
prolonged the makeout session a good deal longer than was
socially appropriate. Just be happy all clothing remained
intact, granted the soakings left little of the top half to the
Ellen remained patient,
but after a minute or so was ready to break up the party. Then
she heard feet scaling stairs and readied her gun.
Out popped Kathryn,
arming her staff to prepare for whatever was on this floor. The
ladies saw each other, blinked, and set down their weapons.
“Ellen? Oh, thank God,”
Kathryn said, stepping aside to let Donovan and Bryce in. “Why
are you pointing a gun at me?”
Ellen sighed. “Why were
you pointing a... stick at me?”
“Just glad you're...”
Kathryn stopped when she saw Troy and Renee.
“Yeah, looks like they
had a rough time.” Ellen shrugged. “I didn't want to interrupt,
“I do.” Kathryn
approached them, ready to poke Troy with the staff, but he heard
her approaching and stood up. “What's going on here?” she asked
“Oh, uh...” Troy looked
at Renee, bashfully getting to her feet. Suddenly his arm
bothered him again. He had completely forgotten about it.
Defensively, he added, “Hey, you don't know what we went
“I can guess.” She took
hold of his arm and eyed his wound. “One of those exploding
“Stings like hell, don't
Troy nodded. Renee did
one better and answered, “Don't think he can use magic until
it's treated. I hope Yuki gets here soon.”
Kathryn raised her
eyebrows. “Oh, I was thinking you wanted a couple more minutes
Renee stepped back. She
knew that tone of voice. Joking, yet hostile. Her friends used
it on their adversaries all the time. “Look, it was just the
heat of the moment, okay?” she said uncertainly. “That was an
“Mmm hmm...” In that
same tone, Kathryn pointed at Renee's chest. “I like your bra.”
While Renee's arms
jumped to cover up her semi-transparent shirt, Troy took Kathryn
aside. “Hey, hey, we uh, just got caught up in things. I mean,
you're not going to tell M-”
“Troy, we'll talk about
it later,” she replied. “But for the record, Donovan and I went
through the same thing and we're not making out.”
Now that he was up,
Ellen finally noticed her son's wound. “Oh, honey, you're hurt.”
Clutching his arm, Troy
nodded. “Yeah. I'll be fine once Yuki gets here.” He turned to
Kathryn. “Any idea where they are?”
Kathryn shook her head.
“Didn't see them. Can't imagine them getting off any easier.”
He then noticed
Kathryn's face- still heavily scratched with specks of crusted
blood coming out of her nose. “You're banged up too.”
“Eh, this is nothing.”
She shrugged. “Plus Yuki can't heal anything done by a wall.
Good ol' Band Aids for me.”
disgusted. “I can't believe you guys are getting hurt like this.
And treating it so lightly. Did that Uriel person send you all
to find me?”
“Nope. Kurt did,”
“He was afraid Uriel was
going to drag things down waiting for the MST to act. We wanted
to get you out of here tonight,” Troy elaborated.
“Oh...” Ellen sighed.
What a good boy. “Thank you. I'd hug you, but you're soaking
“Donovan, where are you
going?” Renee said, breaking up the Hallmark moment. Donovan had
been inching his way toward the hall and away from the group.
Busted, he turned back
and glowered. “Quit this dallying. We must find the tome now.”
“Forget it,” Kathryn
barked back. “We need to regroup after all that.”
“At the very least, we
need to wait for Yuki and Kurt,” Troy added.
“And like I already
said, the only reason we came here was to find Ellen.” Kathryn
put a hand on Ellen's shoulder. “Mission accomplished.”
Then she turned to
Ellen. “How the hell did you get up here anyway?”
“Oh, the nice young man
I was locked up with helped me out. The one they stole the book
from,” Ellen said.
Everyone turned to
Donovan. Donovan folded his arms. “Lies! I help no one!”
Giving it some thought,
Kathryn said, “Well, technically they didn't steal it from
you... they stole it from...” She nervously looked at Troy. His
eyes widened as he turned to Ellen.
“A nice, young man, you
said?” Troy asked.
Ellen nodded, smiling.
“Yes. He said you might know him. I wish I'd gotten his name.”
The awkward silence was
broken by sets of feet rushing up the stairs. Ellen and Kathryn
readied their weapons once more, just in case the arrivals were
The door flew open and
Kurt poured out, spinning around and ready to fire, followed by
Molly, positioned likewise.
Renee smiled and waved.
At ease, Molly and Kurt
looked at Ellen, who also put down her gun. Yuki followed in
behind them, but Renee quickly got her attention and directed
her to Troy.
“Ellen... how the hell
did you get here?” Molly asked.
“Molly?” Ellen replied,
astounded. “Is that really you?”
Molly cleared her
throat. “Yes, so-”
“Oh my God!” Ellen
bounded forward and gave Molly a big hug. Kurt stepped away from
them. “Have you gotten taller?”
“What, I-” As if Molly
had any defense for this smothering display.
“And you're a guardian
now? That's amazing.” Ellen released Molly, but still kept her
hands on the guardian's shoulders.
“You and Molly know each
other?” Kathryn asked, immediately suspicious.
“Oh yes, I've known
Molly since she was little,” Ellen replied, prompting Molly to
shake herself loose.
Renee was puzzled, which
was a step up from Troy, who was totally dumbfounded. “But Molly
and I didn't move here until a couple years ago.”
“Yeah, what's going on?”
Ellen grew a big smile.
“Oh, she didn't tell you? Your father taught Molly magic.”
tense silence was to be expected after such a revelation. The
only noise came from the swishing liquid in Yuki's test tube. It
was deafening. Kathryn and Renee didn't know how to respond.
Kurt covered his open mouth and stepped away. Molly's lowered
her trigger finger: she didn't get the silencing spell off in
time. Instead, she turned away from the group before anyone
looked in her direction.
Troy, he was beyond reaction. Startling as it was, he had no way
of comprehending the ramifications. His father taught his
nemesis magic. But that had presumably happened before Molly
became his nemesis. Was she still his nemesis? He wasn't sure if
this was good news or bad news.
realizing that more information would be useful, he loudly said,
“Hold on a second.”
Everybody but Molly looked at him, though most of them were
pretty much on hold already. Troy turned to the one exception,
Yuki, who had stopped with her potion to see what he had to say.
He turned to her. “Not you.” She went back to work.
again, the lack of a coherent and useful question stymied Troy.
Turning back to his mother, he settled for a good old fashioned,
Frank got Molly into the MST. Taught her everything he knew.
What's the problem?”
Troy was speechless. What wasn't a problem with this?
picked up the slack, though she chose a different target. “Kurt,
did you know about this?”
chose wisely, as Kurt had been distancing himself from Molly and
Ellen. When all eyes were on him, he remained hesitant. “Um...
I'd heard a few things,” he admitted.
moved. Nobody spoke. He relented, “Okay, all I know is that
Molly stumbled onto her trigger at a young age and Frank kinda
took her under his wing to make sure she turned out all right.”
clasped her hands and sighed. “Right. And clearly he did a good
job.” She glanced at Molly, sulking in the corner, her back to
the group. “This kind of thing happens all the time, right?”
kidding?” Yuki said, shaking her head as she continued her
mixing. She was mostly astounded, partially amused at Ellen's
ignorance. “A child? With no magic lineage? And training her
outside the academy? That's unheard of!”
wasn't totally outside the academy,” Ellen clarified. “Once
Frank left, he pulled some strings and got Molly enrolled at
Central. She couldn't have been any younger than you at the
Smoke billowed out of the potion, but Yuki was taken aback to
notice. Unfortunately, Troy leaned too far in and the thing
exploded in his face. Yuki blew the smoke away, handed the
concoction to a reeling Troy, and approached Ellen and Molly.
Now she was completely shocked.
the only reason I'm here... the only reason I'm in this country
is because Central's the only public academy that's let someone
my age in before. You mean...” She turned to Molly. Molly looked
back and met Yuki's eyes for a second. Before anyone could see
how upset she was over the conversation, she turned away again.
would explain why you ended up in her group too,” Kurt said.
laughed nervously. “Wow, I didn't realize this was such big
yeah, it's a bit hard to picture Molly being a friend of your
family,” said Kathryn.
more sober, Ellen replied, “Well, Frank never introduced her to
Troy.” She seemed to want to say more, but hesitated after a
glance at her son. She changed her mind and went with something
else. “But yeah, I guess you're right. You might even say
Molly's like Troy's big sister.”
Like hell was Troy letting that stand. Arm now healed and eyes
now wide, he took two steps to his mother, stopped and let
loose. “Mom, remember pretty much all of last year, when you'd
ask me how my day at school was.” Sneaking a nervous look at
Molly, Troy stammered, “And any time I had a bad day... do you
smiled it off. “Oh, yes, I remember you bitching about Molly all
the time. Like I said- big sister.”
and Kathryn took offense: Kathryn because she thought she had
adopted the 'Troy's big sister' role and Renee because Molly
actually was her big sister and it was a pretty sweet deal. Very
unlike Troy's experience.
Surprised at all the outbursts, Ellen faced Molly. “You know,
you've been awfully quiet, dear.” Molly let out a low growl, but
kept her back turned. “I'm surprised you haven't told them. I
know you're a little shy, but this is something your unit should
Kathryn looked at each other quizzically. A little shy?
like you're ashamed of it or something. But you have to admit
that you've come a long way because of Frank.”
Molly spun around to face Ellen. Sneering at her, eyes releasing
a whole evening's worth of pent-up frustration, she shouted,
“Frank Monroe was the most despicable human being I have ever
seethed, only awkward silence responded. Some were surprised at
the announcement itself, some by the passion of it, some that
Molly finally spoke at all, and Troy, who really wanted an
explanation but sure as hell wasn't about to ask any follow-up
questions after that explosion.
meanwhile, only frowned and looked away. “Well... perhaps,
but...” Only she had no 'but.' She trailed off, unable to
provide any sort of argument. Troy was as angry about that as he
was about the actual statement. He wasn't vocalizing it, only
tilting his head, mouthing 'mom,' and sighing as his mother
it was, nobody was willing to continue the conversation. The
only interruption came from Donovan, who cleared his throat. All
eyes, now eager to turn from the subject, lent themselves to
him. He folded his arms. “The tome?”
Molly marched up to Donovan, pointed at him and turned to the
group. “The tome!” She quickly corrected herself: “Er, the
grimoire. We've been told it's on this floor, so we may as well.
Everybody all rested? Good. Let's go.”
she rallied, only to be stopped again by Ellen. “Um, do you want
this?” She held up the gun.
an xC,” Kurt marveled, taking it from her hands. “Where did you
Uriel sent it to me through a ringtone. Said I should use it in
case of emergency.”
used a ringtone charm?”
defensive, Ellen replied, “Yeah, I didn't know what else to do.
I was stuck and-”
returned to the group and mumbled, “Uriel knows how to use
back a chuckle, Kurt said, “Hey, speaking of Uriel, you got that
Molly patted her front pocket. Eager to get moving, she added,
“We are set.”
thrown by the recent news, and not entirely happy about
continuing the fight after the mission, Troy, Renee, Kathryn and
Yuki slowly approached the hallway, standing behind Molly, Kurt,
Donovan and Bryce.
you were all chit-chatting, I checked the hallway for any more
circles. It's clean,” Bryce said. Now that everybody's attention
was on it, the hall Bo had been guarding led to large, oak
double-doors. It may or may not have been where Silars was
hiding with the grimoire, but it sure wasn't the janitor's
nodded. Given the possibility for traps and the fact that he
hadn't even thought about it, he had to acknowledge the
foresight. Molly wouldn't. “Good. You and Blaine stay back and
take care of Ellen.”
“Blaine's still unconscious.”
thing he won't have to go far,” Molly replied.
them, Ellen said, “Be careful now,” almost as if they could.
and Kurt took the lead, Kurt ready with the xC if necessary.
Donovan insisted on being in the front as well. The other four,
hardly enthusiastic, had no problem bringing up the rear.
Donovan and Molly each took a door, with Kurt standing in front
of them, in firing positioning. He nodded; they threw the doors
office was empty.
certainly an executive chamber, with nice carpeting, large
windows revealing the distant Columbus skyline, and one of those
large, elaborately old-school desks with a naked surface
suggesting that its sole use was playing paper football with
thousand-dollar bills. Other than a fern in the corner, there
was nothing else. Except the overwhelming aura of Grimoire 17.
here!” Donovan exclaimed, lunging into the room. Kurt and Molly
tried to grab him, but ended up stumbling inside as well. They
both cringed, waiting for a surprise that never came.
turned around and stared at them. “What? Can't handle the tome's
“Actually, we're wondering where the trap is,” Kurt replied. He
looked around; it was still an empty office. No army of goons,
no massive explosion, no optical illusion. They still felt the
there was a circle trap here, with the room empty it would have
to activate on contact,” Molly said, puzzled that it didn't.
Seriously, Silars wouldn't just leave it in the room unguarded.
the book itself?” Kurt suggested. The other four entered into
the room, awed by both the grimoire and the quiet surrounding
Kathryn's shoes touched the carpet, then the circle
activated. A sharp electric jolt coursed through each of them
and they fell to their knees. When their knees made contact with
the floor, the pain intensified. Kathryn tried leaning on her
bronze staff, but if this electricity could travel through her
rubber shoes, it was even deadlier through a metal rod. She
dropped it and moaned.
popped up in front of the window, setting the grimoire on the
desk. For all the magic techniques Kurt and Molly had
anticipated, they weren't ready for him hiding under a desk.
“Actually, young lady, when I am present I can activate it
whenever I please,” he mocked. Kurt found the strength to aim
the xC, but Silars clasped his hands, pointed his palms at the
gun and drew it his way.
that now,” Silars said, setting it on the desk next to the book.
Kurt gave in to the pain and bent over. It was a persistent,
searing shock that made it difficult to concentrate on any
particular motor skill, much less casting a spell. It wasn't as
bad as, say, climbing an electric fence. More on par with a
collar used to keep a dog in the yard. Although its continued
pulsing was plenty: Yuki and Renee gave in and passed out.
don't worry. I have no intention of harming you,” Silars said.
you call this?!” Kathryn shouted, unable to modulate her voice.
humane compared to what you did to my poor assistants. Whichever
ones are alive will be loading you and the grimoire onto the
morning truck back to our Manhattan office. There, you will wait
until the MST meets our demands.”
ones as before?” Kurt hissed.
grinned. “Precisely. Only multiplied. Now the force has to
comply. A valued agent and prized students imprisoned over at
corporate? They have a medieval dungeon there, you know.”
book?” Molly said, struggling to reach into her pocket.
have plans for the- hey!” Other than the shout, which did very
little, Silars had no way to stop Molly from retrieving the
plastic ball Uriel had given her.
movement stung and her nerves barely handled the added chore of
commanding muscles while accepting the massive pain intake. The
electricity disoriented her, but she persisted in holding the
ball out, and tossing it out of the circle. Dizzy as she was,
though, she did not throw at Silars as intended. It bounced into
the corner, settled in and snapped open. Nothing happened.
for a brief moment, Silars chuckled and turned to Molly. The
added strain on her had taken its toll, and she was now barely
was that supposed to be?” he asked her.
Kurt stared at the ball
thing, forlorn. While Uriel never went into depth about what it
did, clearly it was supposed to do something. The
directions had been pretty simple too- activate and throw. Molly
had done that. As they had no specifics like throwing it at the
book or throwing it at an enemy or throwing it on the ground, it
should have been some all-encompassing intervention that
'assured success,' as Uriel had promised. In that regard, it was
proving to be about as useful as a fortune cookie.
The prolonged shock
tested the wills of even the strongest among Molly's unit. Yuki
and Renee had already succumbed. Troy began to slip away. Even
Molly had put everything into activating the faulty ball; her
eyes rolled back and her legs started to give. Kathryn was
holding on, but barely. Donovan didn't seem to notice, even as
his hair stood on end.
Therefore, Kurt had to
make this fast. He knew none of this was fatal; most spells
could only inflict pain rather than actual bodily harm. But this
was his final chance to do what he should have done long ago:
ask Silars a question.
“So what happens to the
Silars smirked, happy to
engage in conversation while his foes faded- a formality to him.
“Whether you realize it or not, you can't understate the power
of Grimoire 17.”
“The Tome of Vincent
Wagner!” Donovan corrected, furious.
With a dismissive nod,
Silars replied, “Right.” Then he flipped through the book. “But
the things in here really are remarkable. This shock circle for
example.” He stopped on a page. “Page 62. The hardest part was
waiting for you to finish yapping and get in here. But some of
the things in here...” He looked up just as Molly checked out.
“I'm sure you're all fine magi. Good students and good company
boys and girls that survived everything downstairs.” Kurt waited
for the point, incapable of folding his arms.
“And yet, here you all
are- at my feet.” Silars returned to the book and turned to the
back. “Despite my clear superiority to the best the MST can put
forth to defend this grimoire... I can't begin to contemplate
some of the text in here. I imagine the powers that can be
attained are nothing short of godlike. The Manhattan office will
“But if it's that
strong...” Kurt paused to wince as the pain intensified. His
extremities felt numb. “Do you really expect-” Another delay to
grapple with the shock. “...the MST to let you have it?”
Silars shrugged. “I'll
admit I had my doubts about them trading it for Ellen and the
Hokoni. But now that our haul is bigger... well, you should hope
they'll comply. Otherwise, we'll kill you.”
“Kill us?!” Kurt
repeated, not entirely sure if his ears were still working
“No...” Silars replied,
loudly. Then he calmed down and motioned towards Molly's unit.
“Not them. These are children. There are certain business ethics
in play. A bit of a taboo to kill academy students. We'll have
to find other ways to entertain them while in captivity.”
Silars' pacing took him
back to the desk. He picked up the xC and, in an instant,
pointed it at Kurt. “You, on the other hand...”
Kurt winced. Even as his
nerves were being microwaved, his reflexes still forced his arms
up to shield his face. After trying hard to feel nothing, the
sensation of sheer terror rattled him. His body shook even more.
“Silly boy.” Silars
smiled brightly and lowered the gun. “This thing only works on
demons. No need to be so jumpy.” He set the gun back down,
careful to keep the barrel away from his body. Looking down, he
snickered. “Wow, you thought I was actually going to shoot you
too. Even after all that talk about holding you for a ransom.”
Turning back to Kurt,
Silars threw in one last barb: “Listening skills are very
important for our customer service reps.”
Kurt, more unqualified
for the position then ever, wasn't listening. Whether or not it
would have done anything, the shock of having a gun pointed at
his head made him lose all concentration. He fell onto his back,
ready to punch out for the night.
Paging through the book
once more, Silars cooed a nice, reassuring message to help Kurt
along. “Yes, this is huge. Anyone who thought Golden Sun was big
now can't even imagine where this will lead us. This is just the
beginning for the Chioni. No other faction will be able to
compare. We will be multi-national, multi-dimen-”
He wasn't able to
finish. The blast was so strong, so sudden and so surprising
that Silars went from obnoxious to unconscious in an instant.
His fall killed the shock circle, allowing everyone who had
succumbed to rise again, although it took a couple minutes.
Kurt, who never did
completely go down, was among the few who turned to the corner
where the shot had come from. Uriel stood over the plastic ball,
arm still extended toward Silars. He wore unbelted slacks, a
badly-wrinkled shirt, and a pair of brown loafers. His hair was
neat enough, despite the day's worth of stubble on his chin and
the red in his eyes. Clearly, this was a man who did not expect
the transfer ball to activate in the middle of the night.
Lowering his arm, Uriel
stepped across the room, ignoring the pile of bodies on the
other side, until he stood over Silars. The demon didn't even
get time to turn his head completely to see who had shot him,
yet the horrified look remained fixed on his face. He wasn't
dead. But he may as well have been now that Uriel was on the
Now that Uriel was there
in control, Kurt let his superior worry about Silars and the
book. The agent was worried about his friends. Priority one was
waking up Molly. As he did, Uriel picked up Grimoire 17, flipped
through it, and verified that it was in one piece.
And then he laughed.
Hard. A great, stupefied laugh to revel in how everything turned
out. Despite everything everybody went through, the bad guys had
been defeated and Uriel was left standing with the treasure. His
laugh was naturally overbearing, but who was there to criticize
him? The battle was over and the day was won.
Until another magic
blast, as strong as the one that felled Silars, struck Uriel in
the chest. Unprepared, he dropped the book and the force knocked
him into the window, cracking it slightly. Sharing the same
stupefied look as Silars, Uriel joined the demon in
had just come to, still facing the disorientation and haze of waking
up in an unfamiliar place, and trying to get her nervous system to
talk to her again after the extended jolt. Other than that and a bad
headache, she was fine until she saw the district commander crash
helplessly into the wall.
that moment, all discomfort left her. She couldn't afford it anymore.
Now, there was a new problem that she had to address immediately.
Molly jumped to her feet, turned to the source of the energy ball and
shouted, “Donovan, what the hell are you doing?!”
Donovan set his hands to his side and glared at Uriel. “I will
not allow the tome to be stolen again. This strange man must not
stepped toward Uriel, got a closer look at the damage, then turned to
the grimoire's keeper. “Donovan, that strange man is my boss.”
master is hasty with his evil laugh, and it lacks refinement.”
than respond, Kurt saw Kathryn shake herself into an alert state.
“Kat, make sure everybody's up.” She nodded, grabbed her
staff and prodded Troy. Kurt leaned in to check on Uriel.
that could be said was that Uriel still had a pulse. Kurt turned to
Molly, standing behind him. “What do you think?” he
must say that was a damn good shot,” Molly deadpanned.
I mean, what should we-” He stopped when he realized Molly was
ignoring him. Instead, she picked up the book and watched Troy get to
she barked, almost knocking him to the ground again. “Get
Ellen. We're leaving.”
bring her in here?” Troy replied, confused.
you see any doors downstairs? Besides, we don't want to go back
through there. The sleeping potion might not last much longer.”
tome is mine!” Donovan shouted, launching another attack. Molly
sidestepped it without a second glance. It bounced off the window and
back towards the room, almost taking Troy's head off. He left to
fetch his mother without further protest.
got the glare. “I'll take the book,” Molly
spat. He folded his arms, angry but unable to argue.
Molly?” Kurt attempted to butt in. “What about Uriel?”
about Uriel? We need to get out of here.”
I'm not worried about the guy waking up from the sleeping potion. If
us three could take care of him, all seven of us-”
shook her head, cutting him off. “I'm not worried about him
either. I'm worried about Uriel waking up while we're still here.
Last thing I need tonight is a lecture about trying to kill
can't just leave him here!”
we can. We'll go through the window.” Molly started looking for
a good way to bust through. “After everything he put us
through, I have no sympathy for this man.”
sighed. Hard point to argue, but he tried. “He helped out
paused, and argued back. “You do realize why he was so vague
about that transfer ball, right?” He shook his head. “Because
if we knew what it did, we would have activated it downstairs.
Asshole didn't want to do the leg work.”
But Kurt wasn't getting anywhere. Molly had turned around and was
back to disseminating the windows. Finally Kurt confessed the real
motive to saving Uriel:
he signs my paychecks!” Molly stopped, turned, and raised an
eyebrow at Kurt. He slumped down in submission.
were jolted by glass shattering behind them. Once again, when it came
to property damage, Kathryn was on the scene.
sense being cute here, Pearson,” she said.
nodded, too eager to leave to debate the tactic this time. “It'll
do. You ride with...” She turned to Kurt, still standing over
Uriel, mourning his lost wages. Feeling her stare, he looked back.
Then he saw Kathryn. He pointed at the shattered window and cracked a
sighed. “Don't sweat. I got it.” Holding her staff up,
she started to levitate. Inching her way out the window, she added,
“God, I hate this.”
else got the idea. Now-revived, Renee and Yuki went next. Donovan
glared at the grimoire until Molly shoved him out.
Troy and Ellen safely on their way in, Kurt jumped out next. As he
floated to the ground, Ellen pointed at him and turned to Molly. “I
can't do that,” she said.
can,” Molly replied. Troy groaned.
his mother a piggyback ride, however, was the only option. Ellen
hopped on, trying not to make Troy feel any more awkward than he
already was. Still, Troy needed a minute to convince himself that
this wasn't completely humiliating.
scoffed “What are you waiting for? Someone to take your
picture?” Then she reached into her pocket. Now that she
thought of it, a snapshot of Troy in this spot would be excellent
material for her file. In fact, Troy perceived her words as a threat
and took flight before she had the chance. Molly shrugged, clutched
the book and descended behind them.
building they were evacuating was in a commercial district, but well
away from downtown. As it was the middle of the night, the streets
were thankfully empty. Everybody safely arrived on the loading zone
below, looking up as Molly and Troy joined them.
that both the Ellen and Grimoire 17 had been successfully extracted
from the Chioni's clutches, Renee cheered in victory. She was the
only one. This had been a long, trying night. The bruises from
battling Golden Sun's enforcers, the tingling remnants of the shock
circle and the news of Molly's prior education still lingered. Yes,
the mission was a success, but the consensus was more eager to get
some sleep than celebrate.
was that they were still in the wrong city. “So what now?”
Kathryn asked, shivering a bit in the cool breeze.
was working on that. Now that they were out of the building, where
the Chioni had blocked reception, he was on his Bloodberry, patiently
letting Richard Herman's phone ring until the Columbus agent woke up
and answered the damn thing. Richard eventually answered and Kurt
started negotiating a debriefing, a ride back to L. B. Gould and, if
Richard was up for it, going back in and getting Uriel. Richard
dismissed the latter outright, but was open to discuss the first two.
suppose you can pick us up here,” Kurt said.
coughed. “Actually, I suggest a different location. Get this
book away from here, now.”
raised her hand, nudging up next to Molly. Molly turned her head and
stepped away. “I don't know about the rest of you, but I would
love to find a Denny's or something. I haven't really eaten for about
a White Castle on the way down,” Kathryn said, pointing.
“Looked pretty close.”
Ellen clasped her hands together and smiled. “I'll buy.”
nodded and relayed the info to Richard, hanging up before Richard
could object. Thus began the procession to the heralded White Castle.
He and Kathryn led the way, with Yuki alongside them.
followed behind them, a little annoyed as Kathryn and Kurt rubbed
shoulders and a lot annoyed at Ellen. Troy's mother remained intent
on treating Molly as an old acquaintance and insisted on catching up
on things. Molly was too tired to do anything but play along.
Molly was bothered by Ellen, Troy was losing his hair over it.
Regardless of what had gone on behind his back years ago between
Frank and Molly, it was still a shock. The more he thought about it,
the more troubling it seemed. Why would his father dote over training
Molly and leave him in the dark?
hand slipped into his. To his right, he found Renee, smiling. With
Molly occupied ahead, she leaned in closer as they walked. Any
disturbance over Ellen and Molly would have to wait as Troy suddenly
felt at ease. This was no longer the heat of the moment. They were
conscious of each other, conscious of the implications and conscious
of any potential onlookers.
he didn't let go.