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.
barrage of dust hit Carmen, she said, “Okay, we neutralized him.
So how do we finish him off?”
shrugged. “It's not my specialty, but it probably involves
hitting him until he stops moving. Who's up for it?”
girls looked at Kathryn. Carmen smiled. “May I suggest the girl
with the piece of long, blunt metal?”
can't hurt you now.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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
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
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.
we're in good shape,” shouted Crystal.
smiled, knocking another demon out with his sword's hilt. “I
think so too. Hope Troy got to the girl in one piece.”
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
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
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.
Kathryn thinks like you do. She never seemed to trust any of
surprised, Marie nodded. “Kathryn's smarter than she looks.
Smarter than she thinks. Molly has issues with it too.”
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
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.
didn't give in though,” Renee said.
almost did,” Marie replied. Renee gasped.
did as well, for a different reason. She cupped her ear. “What?”
was contacting her telepathically. “Are you still in the medical
ward with Renee?”
like one of the agents is heading your way. Please do your best
to intercept him.”
stood up and screamed, “I can't fight him!”
figure something out. The Hageshoni will prevent their escape,
but if the MST gets to Renee, it'll get that much more ugly.”
the extent of the conversation. Marie stood there for a moment
in stunned silence.
stared back. Obviously she couldn't hear what Claude was saying,
but she figured out most of it. “That didn't sound good.”
your guys is coming our way. I'm supposed to stop him.”
are you going to do?”
around, Marie mumbled, “What can I do?”
was physically able to shrug, she would have. “Let him. Be done
wouldn't let me live. And even if you got through the Hageshoni
blockade, you're still stuck in the force.”
don't deal with him. Let me go and we'll escape ourselves while
they fight with the other MST guys.”
stopped, staring back with uncertainty. “You'd seriously be okay
with that? You'd quit the MST?”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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
look where you are now,” Marie said, a little spiteful. She
picked up a canister of salt on the counter and read it
are you doing with that?”
only thing I can. I just hope I remember how to do it.” Marie
headed for the door.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
my friends,” he replied coldly. “Is Renee in there?”
Marie's eyes widened and she smiled. “Yes! You can help us get
out of here!”
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?'”
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.”
a hand up. “Slow down. What are you saying? You don't want to be
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
and Donovan and some other people from school. It's safe.”
people...” Marie said, backing away.
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.”
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.
her plan had a major problem. “I'm not throwing Donovan and
Reggie to the wolves if that's what you're suggesting.”
go back to the MST, it's all lost.”
we got past the Hageshoni, the MST won't leave us alone. At best
we'd get recalibrated. At worst...”
you mean we?” Troy said, instantly suspicious.
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.”
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.”
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.”
stepped back as Marie drew closer. “You're asking us to turn our
backs on the MST.”
don't, then I don't gain anything turning my back on the Urayoni.
I can't be free if you're still trapped.”
trapped!” he shouted.
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.”
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.
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
cried, his free hand found her back and pulled her in close. He
could agree with that sentiment, no matter what.
she said, “I don't want to worry about this anymore.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
was freed, she sat up and tried to hug him. He stepped back and
said, “Let's go.”
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?”
don't have much time,” he said impatiently. “Kathryn and Donovan
are holding off Sho outside.”
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.
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.
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
and Crystal swooped down to meet Troy and Renee. “Hey, welcome
back,” Reggie said. “Saved the princess too.”
yet,” Troy said. “We still have to get out of here. Do we need
to do that ice thing again?”
a problem with that,” Crystal replied. She and Reggie lifted
Troy and Renee into the air to avoid the spike that erupted
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
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.
bout we try this position?”
struggled to keep her balance, holding onto both Reggie and
Carmen. “This is more Cammy's thing, but all right.”
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
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.
not working!” Bryce shouted.
up just a bit more,” said Crystal, swooping in with Renee in
it's not doing anything,” Carmen shouted.
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.
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
spikes shot up right in front of Sho, surrounding both him and
the exit completely.
crap,” Reggie muttered, starting to descend. A spike shot up
just below him, catching his foot and sending him, Carmen and
“Reggie!” shouted Cammy. A series of stone projectiles hit her
in the face.
he be hitting us?” cried Troy. He could barely see the demon
through the spikes.
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.
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.
too close!” Crystal shouted. But Donovan grinned and stepped
closer to the spikes.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.”
turned frantically. “You could have told us that before
we hid down here!”
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.”
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.”
and Giles gulped and blinked at her. They hadn't even thought of
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
shook her head. “I read the report and remembered thinking to
myself how hellish it would be.”
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
Suddenly, Mindy asked, “Hey, Meg, can you stop fangirling for a
second so I can go back to spying on the demons?”
not reply. “Ha! Got ya that time,” Mindy proclaimed, facing the
so the spell doesn't work when someone else is in control?” Yuki
asked, handing Molly a completed potion.
just me!” Mindy replied, proud of herself. Then she frowned.
“Hey, where'd they go?”
gone?” Giles asked.
you lose sight of a Hageshoni legion of terror?”
easy if they enter your blind spot,” Molly said. “Perhaps
they're right below us.”
explosion at the front door, directly underneath them.
the tremors, Mindy smiled, impressed. “Meg's right; you are
are you sure they can't get to us?” Giles asked.
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
stared at Molly for a moment, then pinched her ear to send a
telepathic message: “Look out down there. We have incoming.”
pinched his wiggling earlobe, but replied verbally, “Uh, Meg,
I'm right here.”
she was contacting Troy and Reggie,” Yuki said.
stared straight forward, her face turning white. “Except I can
only do that within my unit. Mindy!”
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
we're too far up,” Yuki said.
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.
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?”
it,” Yuki said from the other side. “They're heading up here!”
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.
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.
do,” said Reggie, flying over the other side. “Good call with
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.”
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.
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.
frowned and muttered, “First horses... now hummers. When do the
giant robots show up?”
three vehicles skidded to a stop well shy of the walls. The
doors popped open. Mighty bolts of lightning, fire and ice shot
were attacking the Hageshoni.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
about the agents? How are they getting back?” Yuki asked, trying
to look through the rear-view mirror.
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.
frowned at Uriel. “So you came to get us after all?”
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
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!”
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...”
would be dead right now. Their defenses would have been far
different had they not expected diplomacy.”
say this is a sweet ride,” Yuki said. “I didn't even know we had
cleared his throat. “Yeah, we kind of, um... borrowed these from
the military base next door.”
that was nice of them.”
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.”
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.
the?” The last thing she remembered had been the ice shattering.
Now she was coasting along in a humvee with her teammates and
okay?” Troy asked, gently setting a hand on her back.
mumbled, “I've got a monumental headache, backache, stomachache
and... you get the idea. What's going on?”
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.
chuckled and said, “Bitchin',” before passing out again.
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.”
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.
point out that in the end, we saved you,” Uriel stated.
choice,” Molly muttered.
break the tension, Yuki blurted, “The important thing is
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.
course, they all disagreed on how.
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.
the video monitor worked this time, although instead of Uriel's
face, it displayed Marlowe's.
“Morning!” He seemed even more smug than usual.
the old man?” Claude asked.
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.'”