Magical Security Taskforce




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Chapter 38: Battle at L. B. Gould

Session One

The fancy hiding place that would keep the group safe from the Hageshoni attack turned out to be in a storage closet next to Claude's desk. No, it wasn't actually some gigantic ready room where they could all wait in secure luxury. It was six kids crammed into a room designed to hold, at most, one person and a bunch of office supplies. When Molly closed the door it was dark, uncomfortable, and Donovan still insisted on standing with his hands on his hips.

“Wait, we've got to hide in here?” Troy moaned.

“This isn't even that good a hiding place. You know this'll be the first place they go,” Kathryn said.

“Agreed,” added Donovan. “If we are this desperate we may as well attack head on.”

“Hey, how come the student council gets red staplers while teachers have to settle for the boring black ones?” Renee asked.

Kathryn tried to crane her neck to look over. “How can you see what color the staplers are? It's pitch black.”

With a goofy smile, Renee held up her light ball. “Magic,” she said.

“Put that out!” Molly barked. Renee did immediately. “They may be monitoring magic use to find us. No spells.”

“Well... isn't it already too late? Shouldn't we move?” Kathryn asked.

“Who said we were staying?”

In the dark, Molly felt around the wall for a panel and opened the cover. A sharp red laser light emerged from it. She stared into the beam, typing ten digits on the revealed keypad. The retina scan completed and beeped its approval.

The entire room descended like an elevator. “What's going on?!” Yuki cried.

“Relax,” Molly said calmly. “It's perfectly safe. Claude worked all the bugs out of it years ago.” A jolt shook the closet carriage. One of the staplers fell off the shelf and onto Troy's head. “More or less,” Molly added.

The descent, and corresponding rumbling, stopped. Molly opened the door and they found themselves in a modestly-lit room, with area rugs covering the cement floor in places. In a corner of the room, several lounge chairs surrounded an old coffee table. Bookshelves lined the opposite wall. Hallways led in three directions.

The six spilled out, happy to get some air, musty as it was. “Where are we?” Troy asked, marveling at the furnishings.

“The basement,” Molly said, approaching a phone on the credenza behind the chairs.

“You lie!” Donovan shouted. “There is no basement in this school. My minions and I have scoured it endlessly in search of the legendary treasure buried beneath.”

Molly narrowed an eye at him. “This is the basement and we uncovered the legendary treasure two years ago.”

“Nonsense! Bry-”

“What part of 'no magic' did you not understand!!” Molly snapped back.

Donovan glared at her. “I was merely summoning my minion.”

“And he uses magic to get here. Besides, the fewer people that know about this, the better.” Looking around, Molly made sure everybody knew this applied to the whole group. “This place is for council members only. You are not to speak of it to anybody else. And no magic means no magic. They could still find us.”

“Then how do we know when it's safe to go back up?” Renee asked.

“I'm working on that.” Molly picked up the phone and dialed a number. With a push of another button, Uriel could broadcast to everybody.

“Okay, they passed this to me so listen up. They're surrounding the perimeter and have a few small squads roaming around. You're good for now.”

Kathryn plopped down in a chair. “I can handle this.”

Molly leaned back against the credenza and sighed. “For now. I won't be happy until they leave.”

Renee was busy exploring the hallways. “Where do these other halls lead?”

Rolling her eyes, Molly answered, “I'm not entirely sure. Claude comes down here more than I do.”

“What if Claude shows up?” Yuki asked.

“Thankfully, we don't have to deal with that. The flu got him too.”

“What are the odds Kamila and Sho are with them?” Troy asked, seated next to Kathryn, elbows on his knees.

“They are,” Uriel answered. “Both of them.”

“Dammit.” Troy sunk lower. “I wouldn't mind a piece of them.”

“Forget it, Troy,” Kathryn said. “Don't even think about it.”

“I wouldn't mind a piece of them either,” Molly replied. Kathryn and Troy both looked at her, surprised. When she returned their glances, she quickly added, “But Kathryn's right. Nothing gained from getting ourselves killed too.”

“This is not gaining us anything either!” Donovan shouted.

“It's giving us time,” Molly said. “Should be all we need.”

“Uh, Molly?” Uriel asked. “Where did you say that entrance was?”

“Student Council office. Storage closet.”

“Because that's where they are,” Uriel replied, “The storage closet.”

The elevator hummed as the supply room raised back to the main floor. After a brief pause, it descended.

Molly jumped up and stared at it. “No way...”

“Wait, you mean...” Troy stared. Actually, everyone stared.

Even Donovan. “Perhaps we have a challenge yet.”

“I don't know how you have that set up there, but there's eight guys in there so you'd better run,” Uriel said.

Leaping out to the center of the room, Molly barked, “Okay, split up. Evade the demons by any means necessary. Rendezvous at the Monroe house as soon as you can teleport.”

Nobody moved. Molly turned to all of them. “Now!”

“Which way are you running?” Yuki asked.

Molly readied her trigger, pointed at the elevator. “Someone's got to hold them off.”

“But Molly!” Renee shouted.

“I'll handle it. Go.”

Troy grabbed Renee's wrist; Kathryn grabbed Yuki's. They and Donovan ran in separate directions as the carriage arrived and the door swung open. The moment it did, Molly fired a bolt of energy inside, strong enough to strike anyone in the carriage. Without waiting for response, Molly turned around and started to run.

“Hello, Madam President,” came a familiar voice from the elevator. It froze her. Any thought of escape escaped when she heard his voice. She slowly turned around and faced Claude.

He put his shield down and stared back at her. “Two of you stay with me; the rest go after the others,” he ordered.


Session Two

Claude didn't behave any differently than he usually did. He still stood upright, tall and skinny, with a smarmy half-grin. His poise signaled his quiet self-satisfaction in executing insidious plots, without the cockiness that good underlings withheld. To him, it was just another assignment from his superiors, albeit slightly flashier with just a little more firepower than the usual student council muscle. The superiors, of course, had changed dramatically.

“My letter of resignation is on your desk, Madam President. That will take care of any conflict of interest,” he said. He didn't inflect sarcasm well and, for all Molly knew, he wasn't trying to.

She remained poised to fire at him or either of his companions.

“You don't look surprised,” Claude said.

Molly stared back. She was completely dumbfounded. She just wasn't giving him the satisfaction of seeing it. “Have the Hageshoni really been watching us this whole time?”

Claude chuckled. “No, just since Kamila enrolled.”

She figured it out immediately. This time, she couldn't withhold her gasp. Molly thought she had been rid of them. Perhaps it was a naive notion that saying 'no' often enough would get them to leave her alone. Kendrick couldn't scare them away, nor could the Zukoni or the Chioni. All they had to do was lay low until they could get the stage to themselves again. What better way to watch and wait than by serving directly under her?

He enjoyed her reaction. “If you don't want to be allied to the Urayoni, then the Urayoni will simply ally with you.”

“Sending in a Hageshoni goon squad after us doesn't seem very ally-like,” she grumbled.

“Well...” that caught him for a moment. He fumbled for the words. “I meant allied before. Doing your student council bidding, you know. Circumstances have changed our plans a little. Besides, we've never been opposed to the occasional backstab.”

“I'll grant you that. So do you really plan to fight me?”

“Absolutely.” He smiled. “But why leave yourself out in the open like this while the others run off? You should be cowering in fear like your kids.”

Molly stood firm, trigger still readied. “I am their guardian before I am your prey.”

“All six of you are our prey, Madam,” Claude said. “You just volunteered to go first.”

Without warning, a book slammed Molly in the side of the head. It knocked her back, making her look for an assailant as soon as she could. Now the telephone was heading her way. She barely avoided it and turned to Claude and his men. Only two were left- the rest sent to pursue the others. Neither of the pair remaining, nor Claude, had moved.

Claude took two steps forward. Molly quickly fired a weak energy ball at him. He jumped out of the way and said, “Gentlemen, guard the exits. Make sure she doesn't escape. Hate to waste the chance to take her on alone.”

She fired again. With nothing more than a step back, he let a shield absorb it. Again, he lifted a book and launched it at her. It hit the side of her back and hurt like hell, but she tried not to show it. Prepping for another attack spell, she turned once, switching to a flight spell to avoid a globe.

“What are you planning to do up there?” Claude asked. The ceilings were low and there was little room to maneuver. He kept the globe afloat, targeting her with quick darting motions. She dodged each time, but barely. After ducking low to the ground, she landed and blew the globe up with a spell of her own.

Claude levitated a folding chair in response, but this time she was in position to see it. She charged another attack up, knocking it to the ground before it ever really took off.

Then a ball of pure energy struck Molly in the thigh, knocking her over. She couldn't ignore this pain. Clutching her leg, she grimaced at Claude, who smiled back.

“You don't have to go easy on me, Madam.”

Molly stood up and fired again. Again, a shield appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Now she was getting frustrated. How was this possible? All of Claude's moves seemed elementary; she knew all the same ones. But he executed them without an apparent trigger. He didn't telegraph anything, making it difficult for her to predict him.

She lost focus for a moment, just barely seeing the energy ball flying at her. Molly shielded just in time. Keeping her shield up, she took several steps back. Positioning herself with her back near the wall and with plenty of room to dodge random flying objects, she waited. If Claude had any other tricks, she was going to make him pull them out here. Everything else she was ready for.

Seemingly dismayed at her lack of movement, he stepped forward and waited. She didn't budge.

“You're hiding in a corner?” he said. “That doesn't get anything accomplished.”

“I'm still here. Good enough,” she replied. Much as she would have loved to defeat him, simply escaping was reward enough. Thanks to Claude's guards, the only open exit was through the elevator back to the office. He was blocking that path on his own.

Claude continued to approach her, once pausing to test her shield with a projectile spell. It held. Since she maintained the shield, Claude stood right in front of her. “Please. I've been watching you for years. Before we humiliate you in all sorts of delightful ways, I want to see what the fuss is about.” With a slight smile, he asked, “So, if only to oblige me after years of loyal service... what makes you so special?”

Now cornered, Molly had no choice but to respond. For a moment, she thought to drop her shield and fire back with something truly awesome. Then she noticed Claude's right leg lean back slightly, brushing up against his left. It was subtle and barely detectable- undoubtedly his trigger. So she demonstrated her full might and kicked him in the shin.

He hobbled over, momentarily unable to fire anything. She dropped her shield and cast flight to make a beeline for the elevator. None of the guards moved. She was home free.

Until she ran into the invisible barrier Claude had long-since established. Molly fell to the floor, dazed. Without looking, she threw up a shield spell, feeling it absorb an attack from behind before she had the chance to see it. Clutching her head with her free hand, she spun around and looked back. Claude was back on his feet. He seemed to be happier now.

“That's more like it, Madam,” he said.


Session Three

The remaining five split off into different directions. Kathryn and Yuki ran as far as they could through the basement until they reached a dead end. Thankfully, the end of the hall had an elevator. Even better, the return trip didn't require student council approval. They rode it back up, only to find a blue grating directly above them. Just before they thought to duck, it slid into a slot in the wall and granted them access to the platform above them.

Kathryn realized where they were immediately. The gymnasium had a small platform on each side of the floor for videotaping basketball games. In fact, below them, a gym class continued normally: boys and girls pelted each other with dodgeballs like nothing else was going on. Unfortunately, this dodgeball game was not a spectator sport and none of the bleachers were pulled out. So Kathryn and Yuki were stuck up there.

“Can you fly us down there?” Yuki asked.

“Not with those kids,” Kathryn replied.

“We're in displacement. They won't notice a thing.”

Kathryn winced. “Still, it's... weird, you know? Besides, didn't Molly say something about not giving our position away?”

“So how do we get down?”

In response, Kathryn grabbed the top row of bleachers, found a toehold and began a slow and steady descent. Yuki moaned in displeasure and followed, trying not to look down at the vertical drop. At one point, Kathryn dropped her staff to the bottom. It was unharmed, but the nasty clang made Yuki even more nervous.

Kathryn reached the bottom with no trouble; the stands were but a wall-climbing exercise to her. She picked up her staff and took a few steps back to give Yuki room and words of encouragement. “Come on, just a bit more!” she shouted.

“What if I fall?!” Yuki was still ten feet off the ground.

“You won't!”

She did, thanks to an errant ball that caromed off her arm. Yuki lost her grip and fell back. “Yuki!” Kathryn shouted, lunging forward to try to catch her.

Kathryn would not have gotten there in time had she not raised her staff. Right before Yuki hit the ground, she sprang back up into the air, then fell gracefully into Kathryn's arms.

“So much for not using magic,” Yuki joked, smiling up at Kathryn.

“Let's go.”

The best part about being in the gym was the row of doors leading outside. Once through there, they would be home free. They ran to the exit, threw the doors open and froze at the sight of four large men with police batons. Two of them used the batons to launch fireballs at Kathryn, who ducked back into the gym in time.

“I don't think we can go that way,” Yuki said.

“Locker room,” Kathryn mumbled. If there were any exits the Hageshoni would fail to cover adequately, the small access doors in each of the locker rooms would qualify. In fact, Kathryn planned to be extra sneaky and use the door in the boys' locker room. That thought ended when they reached the hallway and found three more demons standing in front of it. They dashed after her. Kathryn grabbed Yuki's wrist and dashed back at them, batting down a fireball and hoping to reach the girls' room first.

It was a tie. Kathryn rammed into them, knocked one over with her staff and angled towards the door. Hitting another for good measure, she spun around and pulled the door open. Nobody was on the other side; she was home free.

Before she could enter, the third Hageshoni latched onto Yuki's arm and started tugging. Kathryn lost her hold at first, but spun around, lunged forward and reclaimed the girl's hand, with one foot propping the door open.

“Kathryn!” Yuki shouted. She winced as the demon on the ground clutched her leg. He jabbed his free hand into the floor, rattling the ground underneath. Kathryn struggled to bear it while maintaining a grip on Yuki. The first demon made it worse, lashing his baton into Yuki's back repeatedly, adding another blow to the head, knocking her out.

“Yuki!” Kathryn gave up on the door and brought her staff around to deliver some vengeance. The remaining demon turned to her and fired a powerful wind gust. Kathryn lost Yuki, lost her footing and flew backwards, through the door and into the locker room.

She jumped up and sprinted back to the door. Before she could get there, a wall of fire rose in front of the entrance. Kathryn barely stopped in time. She stuck her hand through it, but couldn't fight off the pain long enough and pulled it back before it burned off. “Yuki!” she shouted again, raising her staff in frustration. In what seemed like an instant, she was alone.

“Figured you'd try to get out this way,” Kamila said. Kathryn spun around. There she was, dressed like all those other faceless demons and standing in front of the exit. As usual, her face was tight and intense. All the anger she usually projected was now directed straight back at Kathryn. Kathryn didn't know what to do with it.

The demon shook her head, keeping her eyes focused. “Hate that you gotta see me like this, Kat. I always thought you were pretty cool.”

Back to the fire, Kathryn's eyebrows narrowed. “Don't start that. What the hell are you and why the hell did you do it?”

With a vile snicker, Kamila answered caustically. “I'm a demon. Always have been, always will be. I came here because my orders were to put a mark in Donovan's room and keep tabs on you. We killed Kurt because our orders were to do so. And now I'm here because my orders are not to let you leave.”

“Since when did you listen to people?”

Darker now, Kamila replied, “I don't. I listen to my faction. You got no idea how much it sucks to fight you, but...” She finished by scorching Kathryn's back with the flames.

Kathryn fell forward, rolling to both dodge an attack from Kamila and douse her inflamed shirt. Once the fire was out, she jumped back up, her staff readied. Her back ached already and her clothes were badly singed; the back of her shirt had already lost pieces of fabric.

Kamila still smiled back. “So I guess the question is whether you can follow orders and fight me like a good little soldier.”

A soldier? Kathryn snarled. She was not an unthinking soldier of the MST, and refused to let that stand. Yet, the only way she could respond was by proving Kamila true. She charged in and attacked. Kamila jumped back, hitting Kathryn's sleeve with a small fire spell. Kathryn extinguished it with her palm and lunged. Good and evil were at it again.


Session Four

Donovan went alone, but managed to find an elevator upstairs. He arrived in a main hallway, guarded by a pair of Hageshoni. They fired upon him. He fired back with all the might of his inner demon. His foes didn't last long. Donovan wasn't even in a hurry to escape, strutting down the hall slowly, mocking the demons at his feet.

His hiding spot was less than surprising. The intruder already inside the dark room was more of a shock.

“Hello, Donovan,” Kendrick said. He was admiring the dark gray burn mark in the wall, the outline of the former Hageshoni marking apparent.

“This is not a good time,” Donovan replied, trying to lock the door through magic. He soon realized he had never learned that spell.

Kendrick obliged him. Looking at his hand, Kendrick said, “I know using magic will give myself away, but seeing as how you're all a little busy I don't see the point in holding back.”

Donovan brushed past Kendrick wordlessly and sat at the head of the table, staring at the door. Kendrick set his hands on his hips. “Don't you want to know why I'm here?”

“No need. Soon the demons will be marching into my trap. They will fall like dominoes.”

Kendrick looked at the door. “And what trap would that be?”

“No trickery. I shall destroy them with my bare hands.”

After rolling his eyes, Kendrick sat down at the table. Considering the circumstances, the room was very quiet. They didn't speak; both expected the Hageshoni to burst through the door any moment and start a massive firefight.

Finally, as the minutes passed and the immediate threat didn't seem so impending, Kendrick sighed and said, “Donovan, what is it you're really after in life?”

“World conquest,” he replied simply.

Kendrick nodded. “Enslaving or destroying?”

Donovan paused, then turned to Kendrick. Kendrick was surprised that he had to elaborate, but was happy to. “Because that makes all the difference, you know. They say enslaving is harder, but I disagree. The world is a pretty big place; destroying it on your own would be nearly impossible. You'd need networks, arrangements to help facilitate things. Best path would be to incite some conflicts and let the natives do your job for you. It's about catching every corner of the world in a moment of weakness. At least with enslaving the world you can start small and work your way up, gaining allies and resources as you go. Try to destroy the world and everybody rises against you very quickly.”

“What's the use in destroying the world?” Donovan said, derisive. “Where are the millions forced at your feet, completely under your power? That is the joy of conquest.”

“True, true,” Kendrick said, smiling. He missed this kind of light chit-chat. “But you also have to manage it. Do you have any idea how hard it is to maintain a worldwide network of death legions? A logistical nightmare. And keeping them all loyal while exercising your whim? Shame to put all that work in and lose it all to a simple coup.”

Donovan seemed to seriously ponder this over. “And destruction?”

“An amusing hobby. I'd like to try it sometime.” Kendrick stared at the door. He wasn't chit-chatting anymore. “Something I can't do with the Hokoni.”

Snickering, Donovan said, “So you acknowledge that your faction is inadequate?”

Kendrick looked at the remnants of the marking, Donovan's rack of crap, then the door. “Strangely enough, I do.”

“And you wonder why I keep spurning your offers. Your faction is weak. At least these Hageshoni make an entrance.”

Now Kendrick was derisive. “If you call bulls in a china shop an entrance. Are they getting any results?”

Donovan glared at Kendrick. The demon raised an eyebrow. “All this effort and you're still here. They're not doing so well, are they?”

“Perhaps they don't have enough power,” Donovan replied.

Kendrick sighed, resting an elbow on the table. “I think we can both concede that our world domination bids are not going according to plan under our present employers. Agreed?”

“The Taskforce seems intent on world domination, but I am merely a pawn to them.”

“So perhaps if we were to join forces... independent of our factions?”

Donovan faced Kendrick again. This offer seemed more intriguing- more chaotic than demonic. Joining the Hokoni was never a possibility, but an independent operation had potential. It was something to mull over.

At least it would be if an explosion hadn't destroyed the door. Donovan fired, as promised, but the first Hageshoni to enter had a stone shield and the attacks did nothing. More shots from Donovan meant no results. More demons entered, all brandishing shields of some sort.

Another flank followed. These had fireballs. Donovan took aim at them, but the front row defended his shots while the back row fired at everything they could. Donovan, Kendrick, the table, the rack. Jars exploded, phony animal humors and organs fell to the floor. The place reeked of formaldehyde and whatever was used to preserve his crap.

“Donovan!” Kendrick shouted, throwing a shield up in front of them both. Donovan fired at the Hageshoni, a shot that ricocheted off the shield and struck the wall behind them. “There's only one way use get out of here and it's not through them.”

“Nonsense! We fight!” Donovan yelled as shots hammered against the shield.

“Donovan, if you are to survive, it will be through me. After I count to three, I'm going to drop my shield. When I do, you will grab my left hand.”

“They have stifled teleportation.”

Kendrick shot him a look. “I know. That's why you need me. One...”

Donovan turned to Kendrick, who stared back at the Hageshoni coldly.


Donovan looked at the Hageshoni, setting the table on fire as they advanced on the pair.


Donovan took Kendrick's hand. Kendrick nullified the shield, cast a new spell, turned around and stepped forward.

Donovan and Kendrick walked through the wall, leaving the Hageshoni in the burning dark room.


Session Five

“Where did you two come from?” asked the principal.

“We're with Molly?” Renee replied uncertainly as she and Troy walked out of the filing cabinet in his office. The principal nodded and returned to his work.

The demons in the hallway weren't so accommodating. Renee shielded the first wave of attacks and Troy knocked down one with an ice bolt.

“No, no, use water,” Renee said, lowering her shield to let Troy do so. His strong stream of water was a mere bother to the other two demons in front of them, but Renee charged up a miniature cyclone, incapacitating them in a waterspout.

Troy smiled. “Not bad.” He and Renee ran past them and down the hall, stopping before they turned a corner to make sure they were in the clear before sprinting.

“Okay, from here on, no magic!” said Renee.

“Unless we're spotted anyway,” Troy muttered as they snuck into the teacher's lounge. In the corner, he found their ideal hiding spot, made even better when he maneuvered a pair of the teachers' beer kegs. The two could not be spotted from the window.

Troy had a slight crack where he could see the window; he smiled as a Hageshoni peered through it and continued along. They didn't even realize the biggest advantage of this room: there were no security cameras. Since Claude had granted his fellow demons access to the monitors, it was a serendipitous blessing.

“So what now?” Renee asked.

Taking a deep breath, Troy replied, “Now we have to figure out how to get out of here.”

Despite the obvious statement, Renee took offense. “What do you mean?”

“You know... escaping?”

“We can't just run off and leave Molly back there!”

Troy blinked twice. “Why not? She told us to.”

Renee was already on her knees, but seemed to sink lower. “This is exactly what I was talking about. She's a sitting duck down there alone. These guys are all probably after her anyway.”

Her eyes welled as she considered the possibilities. After what had happened to Kurt, how could she not fear the worst?

“But she told us to-”

“They're going to kill her, Troy!” she shouted, silencing him. “Don't you get it? She doesn't want us throwing ourselves in front of her. So she's leaving herself open like that.”

“And she's giving us a chance to get out,” Troy reiterated. “We all stick together and we all might be dead. There's no way we can take them on ourselves.”

“I know you don't care about her,” Renee sobbed. “I know she's put you through a lot and I know I let her. But she's still my sister. And I still love her. And I'm going back for her.”

Troy sat back against the kegs. He needed to look away from her for a moment. Before responding to what she said, he had to decide if any of it was really true. Why did he feel so compelled to leave Molly to die like this? Was he really as cold to her as Molly was to him? No... because for all the times she had made his life miserable, he saw how badly she was trying to save it right now.

“How can you say I don't care?” Troy replied. “She's sacrificing herself to let us get out of here. I can't even begin to understand what's going through her head. All I know is that no matter how much Molly and I hate each other, when it comes to being our guardian, she's never let us down. I say we do what she says and get the hell out of here.”

Renee stared back, awed by the sudden, though still begrudging, respect he had for Molly. It was enough to accept his judgment. “All right then,” she said. It was not enough to change her mind, however. “But I'm still going in to save her.”

Troy sighed. After all that, he knew continuing to try to change her mind would be a waste. “Do what you have to do. You know the stairs by the cafeteria?”


“They lead to the roof. That's where I'm heading. I'll put up a wall or something and wait for you and Molly. If you're not there in five minutes...” He really didn't want to say the rest.

She nodded anyway. “You've already stuck your neck out enough times to save me before. I can't make you do it again because I want to stick my neck out to save Molly.”

“Just go fast, okay?”

They stood in unison and walked up to the door. Renee peered out the window. She flinched as someone walked by, but it was only a straggling freshman girl that had no idea what was going on. Despite the danger Renee was throwing herself into, she pitied that girl.

“Get going,” Troy said, rushed. Renee turned around and hugged him. He clutched her tightly, reassuring her. Reassuring himself as well. Only after he was satisfied did he pull away, look her in the eyes and say, “Go.”

She pulled the door open and sprinted to the cafeteria. A pair of Hageshoni were on patrol, effectively guarding the student council office. Renee dove behind a trash can, inching it closer and closer to the office door each time their backs were turned.

They weren't that stupid. Before Renee could move again, one of the demons knocked the metal drum over. It collided with the floor, spilled most of its contents and exposed Renee. As the Hageshoni advanced, her reflexes kicked in and she fired a spell. Her outstretched hand grazed the floor tiles and sent a bolt of energy straight at the two attackers. Both of them lost their balance and fell over as Renee jumped to her feet and ran inside. She went straight for the storage closet.

Renee flipped open the panel. She didn't question how the demons were able to ride it down, or how she and Troy had been able to ride it back up. She just stared into the light and let the machine do the rest.

It did nothing.

She tried again, this time typing random numbers into the keypad. The panel responded with a disapproving buzz. One more try, this time trying Molly's birthday. It wanted more digits. Renee added 4-2. No luck. Finally, Renee shrugged and typed in 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-0. She felt a familiar rumbling and sighed in relief as the elevator roared into action.

The shaking propelled her forward and the door opened up back into the student council office. The two Hageshoni were at the door waiting for her. She put a shield up to block their attacks; that much was easy. After that it got tricky. They were unrelenting and stood between her and the only exit. Furthermore, the batons that gave them added magic power still functioned as a blunt object. To top it all off, Molly was still down there staring down any number of awful fates while Renee was helpless up here.

One of the demons shifted just slightly so his fire spells wouldn't burn his partner quite so much. Renee didn't think; she just ran at the opening, keeping her shield up. It wouldn't guard against grabbing or bludgeoning, so she dove forward, somersaulting off her left shoulder and careful not to move her right arm and drop her spell. She got to her feet and turned around to see them behind her. Just as one of them clubbed her in the leg.

Renee fell to a knee, but kept her shield up. Despite the pain, she picked herself up and ran, wincing with every step. She knew they'd chase her, but she didn't care. If she wasn't destined to save Molly, she was following Troy's lead and getting out of there.

She reached the stairwell, but another demon was already there. He was occupied trying to burn down a wall of ice blocking the stairs from the hall. On the other side, Troy was on his knees, determined to reinforce the ice protecting him. From the water collecting around both of them and the thinning barrier, it appeared to be a losing battle.

Renee stepped closer, finally getting Troy's attention. As the demon continued to melt the ice, Troy smiled and held up his trigger finger, tapping the ice. She smiled back; this demon was in for a surprise. Before Troy fired, his face turned to one of shock. She would have heard him scream if not for her own as her pursuers caught up and took out her other leg.

She fell over, but the demons caught her arms and started to drag her away. Troy knocked on the wall he himself created and yelled, but Renee couldn't hear it. The pain overwhelmed her and even if Troy could free her, she couldn't run. The demon melting Troy's wall glanced at the commotion, then stood up and stared at Troy, denying any thought of heroics.

While Troy was occupied with Renee, the fire had intensified. No way would Troy be able to keep the wall up now. As she faded out, she wondered if Troy even wanted the wall to stay up. Either way, if the wall collapsed, he was likely gone as well.

Renee wasn't going to stand for that. Not after she'd already failed to save Molly. With one mighty tug, she pulled her right hand free of her captor and fired off a wind spell. She only held it for a few seconds before her arm was pulled back, but it extinguished the fire. With the wall, and Troy, now safe, he stared back at her. She mouthed the word 'go,' right before a baton blow to the head knocked her out completely.


Session Six

Once Kathryn lunged after Kamila, there was no stopping her. She hated all of this and was due to let out some anger. She hated the MST for putting her loved ones in this spot. She hated the demons for starting all this trouble. She hated Molly for passively letting all these forces run around town unchecked. Years of frustration were unleashed on Kamila, despite her being only marginally responsible for any of it. That was okay; Kathryn hated Kamila too.

Kamila was ready for Kathryn to blow. She was even looking forward to it. She jumped back to avoid Kathryn's first strikes, then shot a fireball in response. Kathryn batted it down. Kamila quickly fired off three more. Kathryn barely flinched, swatting each of them down like they were gnats. All the while, she kept advancing, her teeth clenched and her eyes steeled in a way Kamila had never seen. It was startling.

As a teammate, Kamila thought she had seen Kathryn at her strongest. They both had game modes- faces and attitudes that grew exponentially more intense the more heated the contest became and the more dire the circumstances were. Kamila put everything into it- the only way she could lash out against all the problems in her world. She assumed Kathryn had always done the same. Clearly, she was wrong.

Kathryn's relentless advances were beyond anything Kamila had seen before. After a series of leaps and sidesteps, Kamila was too slow in dodging an attack and the staff grazed her calf. It stung all the same. Kamila hobbled to a far corner of the room to buy a moment. Kathryn wasn't selling; she charged. Kamila dropped to her knees as the staff clanged loudly against the cement wall. With a wave of her left hand, she summoned a cloud of smoke. As Kathryn coughed, she felt her legs give out as Kamila drove her entire body forward, her feet propped against the wall for support.

In the midst of the smoke, Kathryn planted her staff to the floor to try to keep her balance. Kamila kicked it loose and Kathryn fell to the ground. Before Kathryn could get up, Kamila shot a small fireball at her. Kathryn yelped and rolled away to put it out. She ended up with her back against another wall, several yards from Kamila. The smoke drifted around the room, lingering over both their heads.

With the fire doused, Kathryn used her staff to attempt to stand up, but Kamila prevented it with a fire attack directly at Kathryn's stomach. Again, Kathryn winced and fought to extinguish it. Kamila wasted no time in firing again. Each attack made Kathryn cry louder and stay down longer. Most of her upper body was singed and her shirt was scorched beyond repair, ripped and torn in several places. She breathed heavily and could only see Kamila as low as her head hung. But she was still conscious, so Kamila launched another fireball.

This time, Kathryn got her staff in front of it, using it as a cane to try to stand up. Kamila fired yet again; Kathryn blocked it yet again.

“You don't stop now, you're gonna get hurt,” Kamila spat, throwing another fireball. Kathryn blocked it too, now standing on her own. The look in her eyes hadn't changed; she was still as ferocious as ever. Holding her staff out in front of her, nothing anyone could throw at her was going to matter. Regardless of what they were before, Kathryn was not going to falter in front of anyone responsible for murder.

“Go on. Try that again,” Kathryn muttered. Snarling, Kamila did, aiming for Kathryn's feet. Kathryn swung her staff down and repelled the fireball into the floor. Then she took a step toward Kamila. Another fireball was knocked into the ceiling. Again, Kathryn took a step. This time, Kamila held her arm up, putting some charge into her attack. Kathryn stood back and waited for it. Kamila fired a giant fastball directly at Kathryn's head. Without flinching, Kathryn batted it right back. Kamila barely dove out of the way.

At that moment, Kathryn struck. Although Kamila was able to evade the staff, Kathryn punched the demon in the stomach with her other hand, still driving forward and knocking Kamila off balance. Kamila tried to put her arm up for a spell, but the staff came back up, blocking the way. She clutched the staff with her left arm, holding on as Kathryn tried to loosen it. This left both unable to use magic, not that that stopped them from fighting.

Kamila finally lost her balance and fell forward, taking Kathryn with her. On the way down, she kicked Kathryn in the gut, evening the score until Kathryn landed on top of the demon. Though both gripped the staff, each girl had three other limbs and made use of all of them, kicking and clawing wherever they spotted an opening. Both girls landed blows and both received injuries that would make right-thinking kids call a halt. The only thing on their minds was pulling the staff away.

Somewhere after Kathryn's broken nose and Kamila's leg almost snapping in two, Kathryn was on her knees, pinning Kamila to the floor. Kamila kneed Kathryn in the groin, but it didn't faze her. Kathryn fought off everything, including what thoughts of what to do next. With Kamila down like this, one good move could knock her out completely. Instead, all Kathryn could do was bleed on the Hageshoni.

The moment of hesitation was all Kamila needed. She curled up her legs and unleashed them hard against Kathryn's midsection. Kathryn flew backward and crashed into the wall, losing the staff along the way. Kamila slowly got to her feet and admired her new toy.

Kamila grinned as Kathryn lied crumpled. “Not so tough without your stick, are you?” She tapped her shoulder with the staff, then swung it in front of her. Her spell created not just one fireball, but dozens, rising up out of the floor slowly and floating in wait for Kamila's command. Kamila gave it; every one flew sharply at the helpless Kathryn.

All that followed was smoke. It lingered over the ceiling and obscured Kathryn completely. Kamila wasn't sure if she was alive or dead. Her smile faded and she looked at the staff in awe. If it was in need of a new owner, she felt it her duty to fill the position and held it out in front of her to get a feel for it.

That's when a hand descended from above and snatched it. Kamila pulled it down and took Kathryn with. It killed the flight spell, although Kathryn considered it a miracle she made it last as long as she did without her focus item. A focus item she was determined to get back.

As the tug-of-war began, she balled her right hand into a fist and held it up, trying not to think about the demon trying to pull her staff away or her efforts to prevent that. Kathryn dropped her hand down like it was holding a hammer. From the large hunk of rock that seemed to fall out of nowhere and strike Kamila's shoulder, she may as well have been.

The startling blow cost Kamila her concentration and the staff. Not for long, however, as Kamila ran forward, tackling Kathryn into the smoldering wall that received all those fireballs. Kathryn stopped just before reaching it and stepped to her right. The momentum carried Kamila into the smoking wall. Kamila shoved back, charged and fired off a spell while Kathryn was still standing directly in front of her.

Only Kathryn was swinging her staff forward at the same time. The fireball didn't ricochet so much as it danced off of the staff as it connected. As a result, both the staff and the fireball reached Kamila at the exact same time. The staff fed the flame as they each struck Kamila's chest. Kathryn devoted all of her energy into the attack, and all that anger refused to stop, even after the flaming staff broke through Kamila's rib cage. Kathryn screamed. Kamila couldn't.

Eventually, Kathryn stopped. She couldn't penetrate any further. The wall wouldn't let her. She pulled the staff out angrily, only then noticing all the blood. Kamila fell onto her side in one lifeless lump. Kathryn stared at her for a few seconds with clenched teeth. In that time, she knew she didn't need to approach.

Blood still dripping from her nose and her staff, she turned around and walked through the exit, the 'secret' access doors that were supposed to make escape easy for her and Yuki. There were no demons in sight, so she started running. Some surely saw her along the way. Some yelled. Some probably fired a spell at her. They didn't matter. Somewhere past the track, Kathryn lifted her staff up. She teleported.

Suddenly, she was safe in Troy's room. She calmly walked down the stairs, passing Ellen in the kitchen. Ellen stood up from the radio and looked Kathryn over, her mouth agape. She couldn't find any words to say. Kathryn's clothes were tattered and stained with blood- some hers, some not. Leaning her staff against a chair carefully, Kathryn continued past the living room and into the bathroom. She fell to her knees and vomited.





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