“Cocky son of a bitch, ain’t he?” Neil said.
“You would be too if you thought you had a winning lottery ticket in your pocket,” Malcolm said. “So let’s make sure he doesn’t get to cash it in. Is everyone ready?”
The circle of agents and their ancient ally nodded and murmured in agreement.
“Good. Allie, let’s get a final sitrep.”
“Right,” Allie said. “Our primary objective is the termination of the warlock, Dell Wagner. The secondary is the retrieval of the shadow child, Lucian King. Dell has shown himself to be highly skilled with the creation of homunculi servants and has even created at least one with multiple cores, so we should expect that. Destruction of the cores causes them to explode with an effect similar to a flashbang grenade. The Multi-cored servant we fought had them exposed and seemed to get stronger and faster after one of the cores broke. Some of his pets have shown the ability to use advanced magic including focused sunlight and a powerful silencing spell.
“Dell has also proven to be extremely good at predicting and preparing for threats and situations. He made custom servants to kill Jack, though it would seem he was unaware of Jack’s nature as the seventh and that sunlight would only weaken him and not kill him. He also managed to kill a werewolf to make a bane weapon to kill Amber which brings us to something important.”
Allie glanced towards her car, where Goldie sat with her head in her hands. “The only time we know Dell got personally involved was his fight with Amber, probably because a Greater Lilith would destroy a soul based construct like a homunculus. From what Goldie saw, Amber took him apart, but when she tried to eat his soul, something attacked her back. She began to vomit, and Goldie got flashes of something that she could only describe as ‘impossible’ hiding inside his soul. This falls in line with something Jack made us aware of in the house. Jack, would you explain that phrase again?”
Jack nodded. “He is using a magical phrase that I have dealt with before that for a fact cannot work. It mixes nature magic with celestial magic. He isn’t doing anything different than what I’ve seen done over the past two millennia. I think something is helping him, something old and powerful, but I have no idea what nor why.”
“A succubus vomited?” Neil said with surprise.
“She was trying to get rid of something she found inside him,” Malcolm mused. “She wanted to get rid of a memory. Allie, I was planning on asking you to try and shut his mind down, but with this perhaps we’ll leave that for an emergency. I’m not going to throw you in the grinder.”
“We might not have a choice. I’m prepared for that if need be,” Allie said. “This guy also managed to walk me into a muddling trap as well as trapping us in his house. When we go in here, don’t expect to walk out if he isn’t dead.”
“Monica, I need the town breaker pulled in. If there is something else here, I want you ready to drop it on this building,” Malcolm said as he turned towards the building. “Even if we are inside still.”
“Yes Sir,” Monica said. Her tone was resolute, but Allie noticed her hand creep into Jason’s. Neither showed any other emotions.
“Let’s go folks. Our host is as excited to see us are we are to see him.” Malcolm turned and led the walk to the warehouse.
Inside, the warehouse was barren. It was far too much space for its purported purpose. This afforded the group a clear view of a raised platform towards the far end of the building backed by a massive wall of lights. Resting on a table on the dais was Lucian’s prone form. Standing beside it was Dell, dressed in a heavy robe that was folded over at the waist.
“I was getting worried!” Dell’s voice rang out over speakers placed throughout the building. “I thought for a moment you all weren’t coming in. Not that I would blame you. If my opponent were as divinely blessed as I am, I would be reluctant to fight too.”
The rolling door slowly closed. Allie hazarded a glance backward but was more focused on the surrounding area. She was able to feel other beings surrounding the dais, but at the moment, none of them were visible.
“I don’t feel anything near us,” Allie said. “Everything feels like it’s down by the platform.”
“I thought he was a maintenance man,” Lora said. “Why’s this place set up like a rave venue? “
“It feels like a temple set up,” Don said.
“All that aside, I thank you for showing up,” Dell said. “It’s not an easy thing to get a place like this ready for people like you. There are a fair number more of you than I originally expected, but not more than what I prepared for, so it should be fine. Everyone will get some punch and pie, and when we’re done, you can all give me the gifts you brought.”
“Wow,” Lora said. “I wanna kill this guy so bad right now, and I’ve only known him for five minutes.”
“The schadenfreude I’m gonna get from finally killing this guy is going to verge on the erotic,” Don said.
“Children,” Malcolm chided softly.
“Sorry, Sir,” Lora and Don said.
Monica broke formation, dashing to the front of the group, just as Allie felt a sudden malevolent shift come from the far side of the building. The wall of lights flared as Monica lifted her voice in response. Blasts of scintillating light struck an imperceptible dome around the group.
“Looks like we’re starting. Monica, synchronicity!” Malcolm shouted as he drew a knife and pistol.
As Monica’s song became more complex, Allie felt herself mentally, emotionally, and physically falling in step with the rest of the group. Synchronicity was one of the most innocent and also lethal spells a singer could use. It sped thought and unified action between agents the singer saw as allies and allowed them to fight without speaking. What would typically take years of training and close relationships, a singer could produce in a group in seconds. Even Jack, who wasn’t a choir agent by any stretch, seemed to be a comforting teammate dedicated to the same goal.
Lora bent her knees slightly and held her arms in front of her, hands hanging loosely. A pathway of dancing electricity began running along the ground before her, like a runway of lightning. Neil lined up behind her and placed one hand on her back. Allie silenced her mind and piggybacked on Lora and Neil’s senses. Lora’s joy and Neil’s razor focus threatened to swallow her in a giddy hyper-awareness, but Monica’s song and Don’s closeness kept her grounded. In a burst of lightning, the pair flashed forward, clearing the space between Monica’s dome and the platform in seconds.
At the end of Lora’s thunderous rush, through Neil’s eyes, Allie could see ten homunculi servants. They were all replicas of Dell, but slimmer and more mobile. They were perfect constructs without visible cores, so it was impossible to tell at a glance where their kill spots were. Neil’s mind was like a high definition camera, rapidly leaping from place to place, absorbing detail and feeding it back to Allie. The platform was heavily warded. Trap symbols that would serve to slow anything moving in the space that wasn’t the writer to a crawl were plainly visible. She also found the soul sealing symbol they located in the house was prominently displayed. Monica could shatter the platforms protections, but she’d need to be much closer first.
Lora and Neil slid to a stop as ten sets of eyes fell on them. Lora ran for the back of the dais, her goal to reach and kill the light wall that forced Monica to keep her protective dome up. Allie gave her a slight nudge to warn her away from touching the platform itself in her task.
Neil’s job was far more hazardous, as he was to run interference for his elemental ally. He drew he pistols and lept into close quarters with the group of servants. As Neil spun and twisted between them, he forced his body to bend in extreme excess of normal human movement ranges. His proximity stopping the homunculi clones from hitting him with magical blasts and pushing them onto their heels. Allie gently nudged him as well, warning him of the slowing effect on the platform. Neil snapped off a shot at Dell, clearly visible at the top of the dais. The mage was standing over Lucian and chanting, holding an ornate golden dagger in one hand and a goblet in the other. The bullet slowed to a watchable speed the moment it entered the space of the dais, and Dell leaned casually out of the way of it without even glancing at it.
That test of the platform’s defenses cost him as a Homunculus managed to connect a wild swing with Neil’s side. Allie shared his pain as the blow sent him reeling towards the platform. Neil allowed his feet to lose purchase and he spun in the air, again twisting and using the kinetic energy of the strike to increase his momentum. His muscles screamed their objection as he stretched himself out of the spin, catching the ground with his hands. Allie heard Neil’s internal demand for obedience and his muscles tightened allowing him to hit the platform with the soles of his shoes instead of his whole body.
As Neil’s feet hit the platform, the air seemed to thicken, trapping anything that came close. Allie felt another internal demand for muscles and ligaments to relax to an inhuman degree. Neil’s feet slipped free of his boots, leaving them suspended in the air, allowing him to roll out of the way of a falling ax kick that cracked the concrete floor.
A wave of jubilance heralded Lora’s success as the light wall flared brighter before going dark. Monica’s song changed as she dropped her dome and turned her voice to aiding Jack as he charged forward and allowed the distance between Don and Malcolm’s guns and the homunculi bodies to seem all that much shorter. Allie shared the group’s senses, allowing Don and Malcolm freedom to fire while Neil danced among the servants. Monica’s synchronicity in place, Neil was able to maneuver each target into Don and Malcolm’s shots. Punches, kicks, and grabs failed to find purchase on the rapidly moving purifier as a hail of bullets acted as sword and shield both.
Jack closed the gap in a heartbeat, driving one spear-like hand through a homunculus’ head. As he tore the creature’s head free, it grabbed Jack’s arm, twisting it and doubling him over. With its free hand, the beast began to rain blows on the back of Jack’s skull.
Jack, in time with the next strike, dropped his weight and pulled against his trapped arm. He spun his body underneath the homunculus and swiped upwards, tearing the servant’s torso open and revealing two crystalline orbs, one in its chest and the second in its stomach. The violence of the attack caused the creature to release his arm and stagger backward, however before Jack could capitalize on its unbalanced stance, another homunculus caught him in the jaw with its elbow, sending him reeling.
Lora emerged from behind the platform holding a pair of large metal spikes. Electricity arced and danced along her arms as she released the spikes into the air where they hung for a moment before firing off towards the injured homunculus. The spikes tore through it, piercing both of its exposed cores. The creature shuddered and exploded, the force knocking other nearby homunculi off balance.
At some silent signal, five of the remaining servants turned and ran for Allie’s group. They held their hands to their mouths in a shushing motion. Allie drew her pistol with her hands and her knife and baton with her TK arms. They were going to try and silence Monica which would kill the group’s synchronization. She pulsed the thought to the group and moved closer to Monica. Don, Malcolm, and Jason moved forward to intercept the incoming homunculi, hoping to keep them from Monica and Allie.
Jason was the tip of the spear, smashing into one with his shield and hobbling another with a well-placed shotgun blast. Don lept onto another, wrapping it up with her legs and using her body as a counterweight to turn them towards another that attempted to bypass them on its way to Monica. She snapped a pair of shots into its legs, slowing, but not stopping it. Malcolm engaged the last one, ripping its chest open with his knife and firing a series of precise shots into the wound, pushing the homunculus back and causing it to guard its now exposed core.
The two homunculi that slipped through were still bearing down on Monica and Allie. Allie knew the number of magical effects Monica had riding on her voice slowed her moment. Allie lashed out with her baton, knocking the hobbled servant on it’s back, but the one Don had shot managed to dodge the attack and get into range for its silence spell to mute Monica.
The loss of Monica support was immediate. Allie could no longer cleanly process everyone’s input and pulled back into herself. Without synchronicity and Allie’s joined senses, the fight became much more chaotic. Freed of her magical upkeep, Monica ran laterally to her attackers while Allie ran interference to allow her to get back out of range of their silence fields. Allie lashed out with her knife, driving it into the hip joint of the servant closest to Monica. The homunculus stumbled and fell, turning as it did and firing a blast of light that caught Allie in the chest and sending her flying. The light seared her skin through her clothes and cracked one of her ribs. She hit the ground and tumbled, stopping only when she slammed into a wall.
As she struggled to her feet, her hand ran over a slick portion of the wall. She glanced at it and discovered it covered in spray paint. It was the soul sealing symbol, just like as was on the dais. It hit her all at once. The dais was to allow Dell to kill and trap Lucian, but the building itself was for them. Dell wanted the group’s souls as well, and once he finished with Lucian, he’d join the fight. She scanned the wall, finding a further combination of soul seals, prison symbols, and magical wards. This building was a death trap, but it wasn’t perfect. Dell didn’t realize what was floating over his low rent temple.
Monica, Lora, Allie reached out to the two purifiers. We need to drop a town breaker bolt on the building.
We aren’t losing though, Lora thought back. No ancient evils have popped up and I’m not feeling particularly suicidal.
Not my point. This fight isn’t just to slow us down. It’s to soften us up. He’s trapped us in the building and soul sealed the whole thing. We can’t kill these fast enough to clear a path for Monica at this rate, but if we can break this place open, it should rattle him enough to allow me to jump in his head.
I can use Lora as a lightning rod, but I need to get out of these silence fields. Monica thought.
Lora’s thoughts were unbridled excitement at the suggestion.
I’ve got you then, Allie though as she gathered her arms under herself. She launched herself into the air, using her arms as legs. She then carried herself like she was flying to Monica and snatched her up, taking the pair away from the melee and dropping her out of range of the silence fields.
Get ready, Lora! Allie cast the thought to the excitable elemental.
Yeah! Lora hit the homunculus she was fighting with a thunderous blast and ran to a central point between the split party. She lifted her hands to the roof and began to laugh with maniacal glee.
Now free of the silence field, Monica lifted her voice in song again. This time, the song was disharmonic and ominous. It began low and deep in her chest, rising and increasing in tempo. The book Monica was carrying flared open in front of her and seemed to float of its own accord.
The storm outside began to rumble, and the air itself was alive with energy.
“Hey, Mage!” Lora shouted. “You wanna see something cool?”
Dell looked up from his chanting.
Shut your eyes and duck! Allie blasted the thought out.
The group complied and the building shook as a bolt of lightning zeroed in on Lora. The roof exploded with the unmatched fury of nature’s wrath. Allie rode Lora’s senses to witness the explosion and watch as enormous arcs of energy reached out and incinerated three homunculi near the stage.
“What have you done?” Dell roared, finally shaken.
“Shit in your cereal, you fucking loser!” Lora screamed back.
“Nothing you do matters! I may not get your souls now, but the boy’s is still mine!” Dell shouted as he raised his dagger.
Allie felt her opening. She reached out with her mind and sunk her claws into Dell’s. He’d still be able to fight back, but Allie didn’t care. In fact, she looked forward to it.