Magical Security Taskforce




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Chapter 44: Decisive Blows

Session One

Being an unflinching monster had its share of disadvantages too. As always, Sho continued his relentless assault of earth spells, despite them being powerless on a surface of ice.

After a barrage of dust hit Carmen, she said, “Okay, we neutralized him. So how do we finish him off?”

Crystal shrugged. “It's not my specialty, but it probably involves hitting him until he stops moving. Who's up for it?”

Both girls looked at Kathryn. Carmen smiled. “May I suggest the girl with the piece of long, blunt metal?”

“Again?” Kathryn grumbled.

“He can't hurt you now.”

“You sure?” Stepping forward cautiously, Kathryn gripped her staff. As bad as trying to avoid Sho's attacks was, engaging him directly was even more terrifying. He was still a frightening creature with a ton of strength. Furthermore, though she recognized his evil and despised him, after the battle with Kamila, she wanted nothing more than to let someone else do this kind of dirty work.

“It'll be fine, Kathryn. Just knock him out.”

As if to dispute this, Sho attempted his spike attack. Nothing appeared, but they heard a crack below Kathryn's feet. Carmen reinforced the spot with a blast of cold air.

Holding her staff up, Kathryn approached slowly. Sho stood motionless, glaring back impatiently. Easy as this made it, she would have preferred some sort of evasive action. It would have implied that Sho cared whether or not he got clobbered in the head. It would have implied that it mattered.

Still, a free shot was a free shot and Kathryn wasn't waiting for him to change his mind. She reared back and struck, with enough force that she was unable to stop when Sho suddenly stepped back, dodging the attack by inches. As the staff's momentum carried Kathryn forward, he punched her hard in the gut. She dropped the staff and doubled over, gasping for breath.

The wave of nausea and the icy surface prevented Kathryn from getting to her feet. Sho stared down at her. From this range, he didn't need magic. He put a foot on Kathryn's back, forcing her back down. With her at his mercy, he looked up at her allies. Carmen and Crystal stared back helplessly.

Donovan's attack was already on its way. Sho saw it just before it hit him in the chest. It didn't do as much visible damage as his last assault, but it was enough force to let the ice take over. Sho tripped and fell forward. Unfortunately, he fell on top of Kathryn, which didn't help her stomach.

Carmen came to the rescue with an airlift, using a rush of wind to propel Sho skyward. Kathryn scampered back to safety. With Sho briefly suspended in midair, Carmen shouted, “Free shot!”

Enough said for Donovan, who charged up as much of an attack as he could and fired just as Sho started his descent. The energy ball nailed him, sending him flying backwards, crashing to the earth just shy of the wall. Sho stayed down for a while, and rose slowly, heaving his breaths. For once, he didn't seem invincible.

So much, in fact, that with him all the way at the wall, Crystal turned around and checked on her roommates. There were still a few brave Urayoni trying to stop Reggie and company, but among the ones that hadn't fallen to his smiter or Candace's fire, discretion seemed to have won out. Some were retreating back inside.

One thought he had caught Reggie's blind spot, but Cammy threw up a shield to intercept the attack. From the demon's blind spot, Blaine and Bryce did the rest.

“I think we're in good shape,” shouted Crystal.

Reggie smiled, knocking another demon out with his sword's hilt. “I think so too. Hope Troy got to the girl in one piece.”

“Just waiting for him once big boy's out.” As Crystal turned around, the ice began to rumble. Cracks appeared and ran down the surface. Everybody, even the remaining demons, stopped to figure out what was happening. Finally, the whole sheet of ice exploded. Shards flew into the air, scraping against everybody and forcing Bryce and Cammy to their knees. Poor Kathryn continued to get the worst of it with a gash on her forehead. The ice rose ten feet into the air before the particles dissipated.

They were back on terra firma, only now on an undulating terrain. Ridges in what was once level dirt snaked across the grounds. All of them traced back to the corner of the courtyard. Sho, heaving breaths and all, was on his feet. Now that the last hit had sent him to the iceless ground, he was back in the game. He didn't waste time and fired off another spell.

Everybody that could took to the air, hoping the spike wouldn't be anywhere near them. All Kathryn could do was roll away, which was only enough to avoid direct impact. The spike hit her staff, which hit her forehead. By the time she stopped rolling, she was unconscious.


Session Two

Marie had certainly given Renee a lot to think about regarding the MST, but Renee couldn't. Hearing about magic, seeing her sister perform it and experiencing the academy were so wonderful. Even as the 'bad stuff' got increasingly worse, she assumed it was part of the company's mission statement. When someone like Kathryn showed her disgust with the system, Renee found it odd. Now... not so much.

“I think Kathryn thinks like you do. She never seemed to trust any of this.”

Not surprised, Marie nodded. “Kathryn's smarter than she looks. Smarter than she thinks. Molly has issues with it too.”

“Yeah,” Renee conceded. “She's so talented, but she never seems happy about being in the MST.” Narrowing her eyes, she turned to Marie. “Is that why the Urayoni were after her?”

“Something like that. We knew about her power before the force did. They didn't want to touch her while Troy's dad was watching her, but once he left her miserable... figured she was fair game.”

All Renee could do was nod. She knew the rest from Molly. They had followed her throughout junior high, leaving her alone in high school. Alone with Claude, as it turned out.

“She didn't give in though,” Renee said.

“She almost did,” Marie replied. Renee gasped.

Marie did as well, for a different reason. She cupped her ear. “What?”

Claude was contacting her telepathically. “Are you still in the medical ward with Renee?”

She gulped. “Yes.”

“Looks like one of the agents is heading your way. Please do your best to intercept him.”

Marie stood up and screamed, “I can't fight him!”

“Then figure something out. The Hageshoni will prevent their escape, but if the MST gets to Renee, it'll get that much more ugly.”

That was the extent of the conversation. Marie stood there for a moment in stunned silence.

Renee stared back. Obviously she couldn't hear what Claude was saying, but she figured out most of it. “That didn't sound good.”

“One of your guys is coming our way. I'm supposed to stop him.”

“What are you going to do?”

Pacing around, Marie mumbled, “What can I do?”

If Renee was physically able to shrug, she would have. “Let him. Be done with it.”

“He wouldn't let me live. And even if you got through the Hageshoni blockade, you're still stuck in the force.”

“So don't deal with him. Let me go and we'll escape ourselves while they fight with the other MST guys.”

Marie stopped, staring back with uncertainty. “You'd seriously be okay with that? You'd quit the MST?”

Renee lifted her head as much as she could, but hesitated. That was a strong promise to make. “At this point, I just want to get out of these straps. You just want to leave. We can sweat our career plans later. I just don't want either of us to get hurt.”

At first, Marie started to nod, but shook her head. “It wouldn't work. My magic's worthless. If we run into somebody on either side, we're in trouble unless you can protect us.”

Head falling back on the table, Renee moaned. Marie continued, “If Troy was here, it might work, but us two? No way we'd make it.”

Marie looked around frantically, trying to figure out another solution. Renee continued to plead, “Marie, you won't be able to save yourself unless you have some courage. If you really want to help me, you'd get us out of here.” Growing louder, she continued, “Please... I could have escaped with Troy at school. I went back because I had to save Molly, no matter how impossible.”

“And look where you are now,” Marie said, a little spiteful. She picked up a canister of salt on the counter and read it carefully.

“What are you doing with that?”

“The only thing I can. I just hope I remember how to do it.” Marie headed for the door.

“Please, Marie...”

Marie opened the door, but stopped and turned around. “We can't escape together. So you're safer with us. This is for you as much as it is for me.”

By now, Renee was sobbing, but Marie walked out with the salt, slamming the door behind her. At least she left the light on.

It was a small corridor off the main hallway, affording Marie a little room to pour salt in a roughly circular shape. Before the operation had started, it had been years since she had used magic and even longer since she had received any formal training. Still, way back when Bryce was teaching Donovan barrier circles, Claude and Marie had picked up on their signals. In a fit of curiosity, he had showed her what the hell Donovan was learning. As it wasn't a difficult spell to begin with, she remembered it. At least she thought she did.

After completing the circle, Marie took a breath and cast her spell. Then she hid in an alcove and waited. A few minutes later, she heard footsteps rushing down the hallway. Despite her defenses, she still wished she could vanish.

When she saw him approach, she almost yelled instinctively. Marie caught herself and watched in silent horror as Troy walked right into her trap, slamming into her makeshift invisible wall.

As he freaked out, she sadly crawled out of her hiding place and stared back until he saw her and froze. Right now, she wasn't sure if him being the feared MST agent was the best possible fate or the worst.


Session Four

For a second there, Troy thought he was home free. There was little resistance on his march from the courtyard to the medical ward. One or two demons had attempted to get in his way, but he ran past them before they could put forth an obstacle. He found another map, raced to the operating room and met a barrier circle five feet in front of the door.

The ringing in his head from plowing into the barrier became a dull ache when Marie stepped out from the alcove in front of the door. She didn't seem to know what to make of the development either, as she slowly inched closer to the wall, trying to read his eyes. They were silently asking her to take down the circle so he could get on with business, but he doubted she would listen.

“What are you doing here?” she asked. He heard it from above. Apparently her circle didn't reach all the way to the ceiling, a clear sign of her mediocre spellcasting.

“Saving my friends,” he replied coldly. “Is Renee in there?”

“Yes.” Marie's eyes widened and she smiled. “Yes! You can help us get out of here!”

Troy was surprised at her enthusiasm for the big rescue, but wasn't sure what that meant. “That's the plan, but what do you mean 'we?'”

“Troy, do you think I like fighting you guys? Do you think I want Renee to get hurt? Do you think I'm happy about what happened to Kurt and Kamila? I want to get out just as much as you guys. Renee and I can't do it alone, but you can help us.”

He held a hand up. “Slow down. What are you saying? You don't want to be a demon?”

Marie smiled and shook her head. “Of course I don't want to be a demon. I just want to go back to the way it was. You and me and Kathryn and none of this magic business.”

Troy wanted to believe her. He almost did. It would have been so convenient that she have a change of heart and he could somehow save her along with Renee. The problem was that she should have had the opportunity long ago. None of them should have been down here to begin with.

“If that's true, then why didn't you get out before they attacked? Why did you help them? You could have stopped all of this.”

“I was scared. I was afraid of what they'd do to me if I left. That's why I need your help. You can protect us. From both sides.”

He shook his head. Part of him was dismayed at how her cowardice would lead her to do such evil, but part of him didn't want to deal with it. “Fine, fine, let's just get out of here. Come with us, we'll get back to the group and-”

Suddenly, she frowned. “Who all is with you?” she blurted.

“Kathryn and Donovan and some other people from school. It's safe.”

“Other people...” Marie said, backing away.

“What's wrong?”

A little more frantic, she said, “Okay, we can go back for Kathryn. That's fine. But we need to get away from everybody. I don't trust anyone else from the MST, especially with the Hageshoni ready to wipe everybody out.”

Troy gulped. He hadn't considered the Hageshoni yet. That was a bridge to cross in the future. Right now, he was just trying to figure out the best way to pull at least Renee to safety.

Still, her plan had a major problem. “I'm not throwing Donovan and Reggie to the wolves if that's what you're suggesting.”

“If we go back to the MST, it's all lost.”

“We'll figure out-”

“Even if we got past the Hageshoni, the MST won't leave us alone. At best we'd get recalibrated. At worst...”

“What do you mean we?” Troy said, instantly suspicious.

Marie paused to compose herself. “We're in this together. And we need to leave it together. Now that you've seen what the MST does to people, you can see how important it is to get out while you can. Sounds like Kathryn realizes that and Renee's starting to.”

Only Troy didn't see that. He hadn't realized that Marie's grand scheme to escape involved not only her leaving the Urayoni but all of her friends leaving the MST. For all the MST's faults in handling this situation, he wasn't ready to dismiss them completely. “That's asking a lot. It's a big decision.”

“I know. And I'm ready to do it.” Marie stepped forward, right up against the barrier. “I know it's probably suicide, but I'm ready to jump if you and Renee are.” With a deep breath, she took another step, through the barrier, trapping herself along with Troy. She looked up into his eyes, forming a thin, brave smile. “Please, Troy. The only reason I haven't freed Renee and gotten out with her is because we're not strong enough. You are. If we can get out of this... it's over. We don't have to be enemies anymore.”

Troy stepped back as Marie drew closer. “You're asking us to turn our backs on the MST.”

“If you don't, then I don't gain anything turning my back on the Urayoni. I can't be free if you're still trapped.”

“I'm not trapped!” he shouted.

“Yes you are!” she exclaimed. “Don't you see that!? How many more people need to die before you realize the MST doesn't care about you? They just want to control magic to create the world the way they want it to look. They're no better than any of the factions. The only difference is they trick honest people like you into thinking they're the good guys.”

He couldn't help but see some truth in that. It was easy to picture. But at the same time, it wasn't something he could grasp immediately. Not when his top concern was Renee's safety.

“Troy... I can't drop this barrier unless I know you're with me. I won't let them win. I won't let them keep you. Not when we finally have a chance.” Marie leaned forward into his arms, careful to avoid the smiter he still held in his left hand. Head buried against his chest, she pleaded, “Please Troy... I don't want to fight you anymore. I just want us all to be together on the same team.”

As she cried, his free hand found her back and pulled her in close. He could agree with that sentiment, no matter what.

Finally, she said, “I don't want to worry about this anymore.”

Troy found himself unable to promise to abandon magic. He couldn't commit to leaving the MST. Like her, he just wanted to stop the fighting and save his friends. Yet of all Marie's wishes, her final one was the only one he could surely grant. He held her tightly as she wept in his arms, closed his eyes, and slowly forced his smiter into her side.


Session Four

As Troy had seen many times in the fortress, death by smiter is fast, clean and fleetingly agonizing. In several seconds, the evil spirits in one's soul are sucked out through a gaping body wound. Whether she liked it or not, Marie was a demon and all that evil she tried so hard to suppress escaped her in a black gush of smoke. For all the good she wanted to possess, nothing would be left when it was over.

She stumbled backwards, slamming against her own barrier. Her senses were already fading, but she looked up at Troy. When she did, he turned away. His face bore no expression, but his left hand still trembled. Marie fell back further, the barrier dropping either due to her subconscious desire or her inability to sustain it. She fell to the ground in the alcove next to the door. In her fading sight, she wanted Troy to look at her one last time. A goodbye, an apology or an explanation would have been wonderful, but she would have settled for him watching her die and at least recognizing that he had murdered her.

He didn't. Troy took a few moments to collect himself and glanced only briefly at Marie's body. Her teary, lifeless eyes stared back, still seeming to plead for an answer. He shook it off: there were more important things to do.

Troy pulled open the door and rushed into the room. Renee lifted her head as much as she could. “Troy!” she gasped, immediately breaking into tears.

Then the questions started: “What are you doing here? Is Kathryn with you? Have you found Molly and Yuki?” He didn't answer, instead focusing on untying her restraints, using an ice spell to freeze and shatter one stubborn buckle.

Once she was freed, she sat up and tried to hug him. He stepped back and said, “Let's go.”

Renee nodded. Whatever was going on outside probably meant little time for emotion. She jumped to her feet and started to follow him out. Before they reached the door, she stopped and said, “Wait... what happened to Marie? Wasn't she outside?”

“We don't have much time,” he said impatiently. “Kathryn and Donovan are holding off Sho outside.”

Enough said for Renee. Troy grabbed her hand and rushed out the door. She did not look back when they passed the hallway, so she didn't get the answer to her question.

By now, the Urayoni presence had diminished so much that the few guards they encountered didn't even fight. When they saw Troy approach, they ducked into a corner. With Renee already freed, there was little use in holding their position inside the fortress while the Hageshoni were taking care of the perimeter.

The courtyard was not pretty when Troy and Renee arrived. Spikes punctuated the ground in several places and all but one of their allies were hovering in the air. The last one, Kathryn, remained unconscious on the ground. Thankfully, Sho was paying no attention to her and concentrating his fire on her airborne companions. His attacks were relentless but not particularly fast, so they didn't have a problem dodging. The problem was that nobody wanted to risk falling to the ground, which meant sustaining their flight spells and not attempting a counterattack.

Reggie and Crystal swooped down to meet Troy and Renee. “Hey, welcome back,” Reggie said. “Saved the princess too.”

“Not yet,” Troy said. “We still have to get out of here. Do we need to do that ice thing again?”

“There's a problem with that,” Crystal replied. She and Reggie lifted Troy and Renee into the air to avoid the spike that erupted below them.

“Oh. Any plans?”

As Renee clung to Reggie, he moaned, “Duh...” Then he tossed Renee over to Troy and Crystal. “Hey Troy- catch.” He didn't, but cast flight and picked her up off the ground before any damage could be done.

Reggie flew over to his other girls. Being the air specialist, Carmen was one of the few who could drop flight, cast an attack spell and resume her flight before hitting the ground. But as an air specialist, most of her attacks were useless on their own. Reggie gave her a hand, swooping in and hoisting both her and Candace on each shoulder.

“How's bout we try this position?”

Candace struggled to keep her balance, holding onto both Reggie and Carmen. “This is more Cammy's thing, but all right.”

It took them a moment to establish some equilibrium, especially with Reggie dodging attacks from Sho. But once they worked it out the firestorm was on. A wind-boosted fire attack rushed forward and at least forced Sho to throw up a shield. That alone was a morale boost.

Only despite Candace and Carmen's persistent attacking, his shield seemed to hold. Blaine landed and fired his own wind gust to support Carmen, but other than a brief step backwards from Sho, it didn't seem to matter.

“It's not working!” Bryce shouted.

“Keep it up just a bit more,” said Crystal, swooping in with Renee in tow.

“But it's not doing anything,” Carmen shouted.

“It's giving him time.” Crystal smiled and looked directly below. While Sho was busy on defense, Troy was busy enchanting the ground again. There was no way he and Crystal could cover the courtyard again, but he could at least create a small patch of ice to offer protection. He finished, charged up a spell and fired a strong stream of water, drenching the shield, and combined with Carmen's wind to erode it rapidly, enough that Candace's fire spell broke through and singed Sho. An ice bolt from Troy knocked the demon back further.

As the barrage of ice, wind and fire continued to rattle Sho, he backpedaled toward the front door, trying not to fall over. Reggie advanced Candace and Carmen forward, although Troy didn't dare leave his safe ground. Eventually, the assault grew unbearable and Sho slashed his arms forward. A loud rumbling followed. Even with a secure footing, Troy took flight just in case.

The spikes shot up right in front of Sho, surrounding both him and the exit completely.

“Aw, crap,” Reggie muttered, starting to descend. A spike shot up just below him, catching his foot and sending him, Carmen and Candace tumbling.

“Reggie!” shouted Cammy. A series of stone projectiles hit her in the face.

“How can he be hitting us?” cried Troy. He could barely see the demon through the spikes.

Barely was good enough for Sho, as he continued firing at anybody he could see. Troy and Blaine tried firing spells at him, but their aims weren't true enough to get past the spikes.

Just as everyone was about to fall back to think up another way through, Donovan landed on the far side of the spikes. Under his arm, he carried a smiter- the one Molly had dropped.

“You're too close!” Crystal shouted. But Donovan grinned and stepped closer to the spikes.

Everyone else paid no attention to him, continuing their futile attacks and trying to avoid what little Sho could throw back. They didn't even flinch when Donovan cast a spell and calmly stepped through the spike.

If, on his final day on Earth, Kendrick was going to use such an incredibly useful spell, no amount of distraction was going to prevent Donovan from picking it up. He emerged behind Sho, who remained focused on everybody in front of him. Without a word, Donovan pulled out the smiter and drove it into Sho's body. The smoke gushed out of the wound and even the mighty Sho was no match for a stab in the back.

When Sho fell, the spikes did too, revealing Donovan to a stunned group of allies. Everybody landed and slowly approached, not sure what to make of the sudden end to their battle.

Donovan stared at the body, and for once didn't feel compelled to laugh or smirk. In a low and almost calm voice, he muttered, “Vengeance is ours.”


Session Five

At the first sight of the mounted Hageshoni army ready to lay siege to the castle (and anyone attempting to exit it), Molly absolutely refused to be anywhere but the makeshift bunker inside the wall. Instead, Yuki borrowed Maple's chemicals to make the potion for Molly's minor wound, freeing Mindy up to resume the surveillance.

It was crowded inside with seven people, despite inhabiting only four bodies. Giles had mostly recovered, but did his best to stay out of the way. He was the only male body in the bunch and already had his share of awkward positions climbing the wall with Molly.

“I hope they can't detect us up here,” he said. “With all of us running around, I'm amazed they haven't scanned magic output to find where we're hiding.”

Mindy turned frantically. “You could have told us that before we hid down here!”

Meg took over, significantly calmer. “Actually, the walls are concealing us that way too. A little ironic how walls with anti-magic properties are, themselves, magical. So nobody will notice the little magic Mindy's using.”

“Ah, so the walls are anti-magic,” Yuki said. “I was wondering why Sho didn't use them to swallow us whole while we were climbing up.”

Molly and Giles gulped and blinked at her. They hadn't even thought of that.

With a smile, Meg said, “I must say that you two are a little more comfortable with our... condition that the rest of your unit.”

“Actually, I'm quite confounded by it,” Molly replied. “But I make it a point not to be picky about my rescuers. I take it you were the unit with that disastrous field assignment against the Hokoni?”

“Are we that famous?”

Molly shook her head. “I read the report and remembered thinking to myself how hellish it would be.”

“Oh, it is.”

“Hey!” shouted Morgan.

Snickering, Meg said, “So you really do read all those reports? You're really as thorough as I heard you are. It's cool to meet you.”

Suddenly, Mindy asked, “Hey, Meg, can you stop fangirling for a second so I can go back to spying on the demons?”

Meg did not reply. “Ha! Got ya that time,” Mindy proclaimed, facing the wall again.

“Wait, so the spell doesn't work when someone else is in control?” Yuki asked, handing Molly a completed potion.

“Nope, just me!” Mindy replied, proud of herself. Then she frowned. “Hey, where'd they go?”

“They're gone?” Giles asked.


“How do you lose sight of a Hageshoni legion of terror?”

“It's easy if they enter your blind spot,” Molly said. “Perhaps they're right below us.”

Cue the explosion at the front door, directly underneath them.

Despite the tremors, Mindy smiled, impressed. “Meg's right; you are good.”

“Meg, are you sure they can't get to us?” Giles asked.

After Mindy gave up on peering through the wall, Meg replied, “I doubt they know we're up here.”

“Great...” Molly frowned. “What about everybody in the courtyard?”

Meg stared at Molly for a moment, then pinched her ear to send a telepathic message: “Look out down there. We have incoming.”

Giles pinched his wiggling earlobe, but replied verbally, “Uh, Meg, I'm right here.”

“I think she was contacting Troy and Reggie,” Yuki said.

Meg stared straight forward, her face turning white. “Except I can only do that within my unit. Mindy!”

“Excuse me!” Mindy dove forward, almost knocking Molly over. She peered through the other wall. “Looks like they've taken care of everything on that side. They're about to head out... man, are they fuc-”

Morgan opened the top of the wall and climbed out, with Molly right behind. More reluctantly, Giles and Yuki followed them. Staying low to the ground, Molly used the embattlement to look over the courtyard. The plan was to send a warning down somehow, but she paused when she caught a glimpse of Renee. Molly couldn't make out anyone's facial expressions, but she did see her sister and did not see any demons. Somehow they had done it.

At least, they had done it so far. There was still the one tiny addendum: the knocking on the front door. Everybody downstairs had heard it and stared at the door anxiously. Everybody on top of the wall felt the tremors.

Yuki poked her head over the other side: the legion of Hageshoni were flanking the entrance as a few rapped the front door with a battering ram. She ducked her head back quickly before any of them saw her. Running over to Molly, she said, “They aren't getting out through that way.”

“Then let's get them up here,” Molly said. She cupped her hands to yell down, but stopped: either nobody would hear her or both her unit and the Hageshoni would. Instead, she took careful aim at Donovan and tossed the empty vial from her potion.

It didn't hit him (and she snapped her fingers in dismay), but it caught his minions' attention. They looked up and barely made out Molly. She waved her hands for them to come up, but they stared back, clueless.

“Maybe we're too far up,” Yuki said.

“Allow me,” replied Giles. He summoned a simple light ball and waved that into the air. Meg got the hint and did the same. Everyone down below figured it out and started their ascent, with Blaine and Bryce taking Kathryn.

Molly felt her eye tic at the sight of Troy carrying Renee, but her sister was likely under a negator too and couldn't use magic either. In any case, she let it slide. “Let's not overthink this: perhaps we can just fly over once they're here?”

“I doubt it,” Yuki said from the other side. “They're heading up here!”

She ducked behind the parapet in time to avoid a fireball that whizzed up the wall. Meg ran to that side and found a pair of Hageshoni on horseback flying up the wall. Key to this was that the horses appeared to be doing the flying, as the demons were free to shoot at Meg. Meg dodged and quickly leaned forward to volley back with a deluge of water. It doused one and knocked the demon off its horse. A second fired at Meg again, but Morgan took over and created a blockade on that side.

Yuki ran to the end of the blockade where she could peek over the side. While Morgan and Meg were able to handle the second rider that did reach the top, it was the first that caused the most trouble, posthumously at least. “Well... now they know we're up here,” she said as more and more started to fly up.

“Sure do,” said Reggie, flying over the other side. “Good call with the lights.”

“She's ain't talking about you guys,” Morgan replied, finishing off the second rider with part of the blockade. “Whole gang's going to be up here soon.”

Their side arrived first. Whoever could had to help Meg and Morgan fend off flying Hageshoni troops as soon as they landed. Even so, demons had shattered the initial blockade. At this rate, the entire battle would be dragged up to the top of the wall where there was little room for error and several good guys incapable of flying if things turned bad.

From the side, Yuki and Renee could only wonder how it could get worse. In need of a breather, they looked into what passed for a horizon and got their answer in the form of three humvees speeding over the hill and down to the fortress.

Renee frowned and muttered, “First horses... now hummers. When do the giant robots show up?”

The three vehicles skidded to a stop well shy of the walls. The doors popped open. Mighty bolts of lightning, fire and ice shot out.

They were attacking the Hageshoni.


Session Six

Only a few of the blasts targeted the demons scaling the walls. Troy, Meg, Blaine and Reggie's girls still had to face them. But at least it drew attention away from the Hageshoni on the ground and prevented more from attacking. Anyone who wasn't fighting looked at the humvees deliriously. Some MST armies in foreign worlds had cool magical vehicles like the telecopter, but they didn't incorporate army units such as these. The only faction that did were the Hageshoni, and it was safe to rule them out unless they felt like attacking themselves.

Three magi spilled out of each vehicle, most continuing to attack the Hageshoni. Some put up protective shields that seemed to withstand even the nastiest counterattacks the demons could muster. Stuff that wore out Cammy's shield quickly seemed harmless to them. The Hageshoni advanced, but didn't get far against the wall of fire one of the interlopers threw up.

They had a harder go of it up above, but Troy and Meg's combined ability to turn the wall into a rushing waterfall proved hard to beat. The worst of it over, things calmed down enough for Reggie to hear a telepathic message that sounded like an angry father on a long family vacation: “Into the car. Now.”

“Time to go!” Reggie shouted, scooping up Cammy and lifting her into the air as she kept her shield up. Everybody took flight rapidly, grabbing whoever couldn't. The Hageshoni tried to shoot them down, but between Cammy's shield and the cover fire from the humvees, the troop sailed over their heads and landed safely behind the MST agents. Somehow they scrambled to separate themselves into the three vehicles, roughly by unit. When the dust settled, Molly and Yuki sat in front of one car with Troy, Kathryn and Renee in back. Uriel drove... and boy did he, flooring it out of there as soon as the last door slammed.

“What about the agents? How are they getting back?” Yuki asked, trying to look through the rear-view mirror.

“Magic,” Uriel muttered. Once the three humvees took off, the agents turned around, three of them flying and towing a pair that fired on any demon who gave chase.

Troy frowned at Uriel. “So you came to get us after all?”

Uriel shook his head. “Yeah, and I've got half a mind to send you the bill for it,” he spat. “You know how hard it is to get all these agents together in a pinch? Some of these guys charge by the spell.”

A giant explosion behind them rattled the passengers but Uriel sneered and looked through his mirror. “God, that was just gratuitous. I'm not paying for that one!”

Molly watched the agents work. They were professional, efficient and powerful. “Call me crazy, but perhaps if you had sent these guys in the first place...”

“You would be dead right now. Their defenses would have been far different had they not expected diplomacy.”

“Gotta say this is a sweet ride,” Yuki said. “I didn't even know we had these.”

Uriel cleared his throat. “Yeah, we kind of, um... borrowed these from the military base next door.”

“Wow, that was nice of them.”

He shifted his eyes. “Let's just say they won't be so nice if we don't get these back by sun-up. Thank God for transfer balls.”

That led to an uncomfortable silence. Perhaps this is what caused Kathryn's eyes to snap open. After the last couple hours, silence was a foreign sound.

“What the?” The last thing she remembered had been the ice shattering. Now she was coasting along in a humvee with her teammates and Uriel.

“Are you okay?” Troy asked, gently setting a hand on her back.

She mumbled, “I've got a monumental headache, backache, stomachache and... you get the idea. What's going on?”

“We're heading back. We did it.” Troy smiled at her, just a little. Kathryn saw Yuki and Molly in the front seat and leaned over to catch sight of Renee. Her smile was far bigger than Troy's. Kathryn was happy to see it.

She chuckled and said, “Bitchin',” before passing out again.

“Thank you,” Renee said, not quite getting it out before Kathryn checked out. Instead, she smiled at Troy. “I can't believe you guys actually saved us.”

Troy nodded. “I can't believe we did either.” He sighed. Normally he'd be doing flips over such praise, but he was just tired. So was Molly, quietly revolted at the exchange.

“I'll point out that in the end, we saved you,” Uriel stated.

“Not by choice,” Molly muttered.

Eager to break the tension, Yuki blurted, “The important thing is everybody's safe.”

Nobody responded. Frankly, nobody believed her. Uriel was angry, Molly was bitter, Troy was tired, Kathryn was unconscious and Renee was too happy to care. Even if this was all over and everybody was safe, they knew the course of events suggested that everything had changed dramatically.

Of course, they all disagreed on how.


By the time the MST agents had rushed the Hageshoni, Claude felt like he was the only healthy Urayoni left in the dungeon. Everyone else was either deceased, unconscious or missing. Still, with the sudden wave securing the prisoners' safe escape, Claude had to follow up.

At least the video monitor worked this time, although instead of Uriel's face, it displayed Marlowe's.

“Morning!” He seemed even more smug than usual.

“Where's the old man?” Claude asked.

“The old man is not available at this time, but he did give me a message to pass onto you.” Marlowe unfolded a sheet of paper, scanned it and looked up. “He says 'Dear Urayoni, we apologize for the unauthorized students in your realm. Furthermore, the true convoy has now arrived to pick up both the intruders and the prisoners. Thank you for your cooperation. Sincerely, Uriel.'”

“Wait, that doesn't-”

“Have a nice day!”





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