Kendall was heavily distracted. With his hands to his ears, trying to block out distant explosions, he yelled at no one to be seen. The demon Gozo was giving trouble. At the moment, he was trying to explain how to escape a magical trap to a less apt student. Odessa was on point, and we’d ran for an indoor swimming pool.
With high ceilings over the placid pool our footsteps echoed throughout.
Walk don’t run.
We ran around the pool, passing the diving board and coming to the lockers. Into the shower room, with diffused light coming in through high fogged windows. Kendall reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of cards, some of them spilling onto the floor.
“Fuck…” he said.
“Where are we headed?” I asked.
Kendall was collecting his cards, searching. “You two went into that fight and took Cobb out. He was trying to stop Ali from getting a spell up and running. With our distraction, he’s gotten it done and our guys are joining in. They’re moving fast. We need to catch up if we’re going to be a part of whatever’s next. Got it.” He found the card he’d been looking for. He threw it into the wall at the back of the room, and it melted away.
This probably took longer than going around.
My thoughts were confirmed when we passed through the wall and found ourselves in a back alley. Kendall swore.
“Any cards for mobility?” I asked.
“I can’t remember. They’re out of order. Shit.” He shuffled through them. I came and stood behind, looking over them with him.
While we were occupied Odessa took a run-up and stabbed her sword into the wall in our way. She wrenched it and took a chunk out of the wall. She hacked at the concrete, working a path out.
We’re too slow. They’re moving fast. The gap increases.
I left them behind for a moment, peeking out of the alleyway.
Where’s a car when you need one.
They had bikes. Wonderful.
I ran across the street and yanked on the bike, which was attached to a mechanical rack. It wouldn’t release, the power was out. I tugged and kicked the rack. I took out my gun and shot the machine connected. The bikes detached.
Awkwardly, I took three and pushed them into the alleyway, where Kendall and Odessa were busy with what I’d left them doing.
“We’re losing time.” I let go of the other two bikes and mounted mine.
“You’re not kidding. Fuck this.” Kendall put away his cards and grabbed one.
Odessa, angrily tearing into the wall, stopped to look over at us. Her face still twisted with undue rage, turned to confusion.
“What are those things?” she huffed.
“Shit. We’re going to need to split up. You do your thing.” Kendall power peddled away, I followed. We left Odessa behind in the alley.
As we biked I spoke. “Do you know why she’s like that?”
“I don’t know…” he knew what I was talking about. “She’s died and gone to hell. Expected different for herself, you know, devout as she was. She’s been through a lot and won’t let it go. She’s not forgiving.”
“I…” a pained voice came in over the radio, cutting Kendall short. A stutter followed and a panicked breath. It was Anna, alive and in peril. “…Can’t.”
“Aku, where is she?” I asked.
“A short diversion from your path,” Aku replied.
“No!” Kendall said, slightly breathless. “We’ve got to catch up.”
“You go, I won’t be long.” Speeding up, I took the next left. He didn’t stop me. Maybe he did have a heart? Maybe he just didn’t care at this point.
Anna couldn’t have flown for long. Kendall was trying to catch a running target, which is why it was taking so long, even though we had started out relatively close. Anna wasn’t moving, and we had already gotten closer.
The building which Aku led me to had a wall around it. I screeched to a halt and propped my bike against it, using the seat as a step. Peeking over, I could see a building surrounded by transformers. A power station.
My feet hit the ground running. No time to spare. I kicked in the door and came into the dark building with my gun lighting it. It was small, and at the back of the room, aside a console, was a figure. She was standing.
No, she was pinned.
Anna was impaled by a sword, stuck to the wall. I dropped my gun onto the floor, with its light facing her. I came up to her and studied the sword buried to its hilt.
“Doran,” she said. “It followed me.” With hair hanging over her agonized face, she reached out to take a handful of my cloak.
Should be dead.
“It burns,” she whimpered.
“I’m sorry,” I said. This isn’t right. “You know what I’m going to do.” I touched her face, waking her up, and she stared petrified. There was no better option.
I ran back for my gun and picked it up. I aimed and shot.
Anna screamed and papers all around combusted into flame and flew up caught in a wind. I fired again. Her body went slack in the light of my gun.
I’ll… have to apologize later.
The sword quivered, working backward away from Anna and the wall.
Target seeking sword without a target. I stepped back and pulled the door with me. The blade pierced it and rammed my side through the door. I fell back, uninjured, with the wind knocked out of me. The door swung open, and the sword slipped out again. I was already on my feet and stepping back. I couldn’t take my eyes off it.
The sword glowed and inched back. I made a prediction.
I moved to the side as fast as I could, putting myself between the sword and a transformer. It bolted towards me. Putting my gun in its way and angling to the side, it skid off with a spark, hitting the transformer.
No power, dummy.
Right. I lit into the sword. It popped. I covered my face as shrapnel flew about. The sword had been killable, which was lucky.
I set out and, scaling back over the wall, took up my bike to go as fast as I could. My feet were killing me, but I still had steam.
Aku had my path back to Kendall. I was far behind. I didn’t regret going after Anna, but the situation had been unfortunate.
After a while of intense and uncomfortable peddling, Kendall radioed. “We’re in the street cleaner, ditch the bike.”
I threw the bike away and jogged up to the street cleaner. Kendall and Odessa were in the cockpit. They opened the door for me and I climbed in.
“Alright,” Kendall said and addressed someone distant. “This is Kendall. My Summons are present. There’re enemies between… Yes, we can… Thank you, sir.” He looked to us. “They’ve agreed to stop for only a short time, so we can catch up. The Utopians are assaulting them, but they’re protected. Moment we step out, they’ll focus us. Stay close to me.” He jumped out the door.
Odessa and I followed. We quickly came into sight of the energy dome which held the Anarchists within. On rooftops above and on ground beside Utopians assailed the shield to no avail.
We made an immediate run into the open, with Kendall leading. Holding a handful of cards in his left, he transferred one to his right. The first Utopian to spot us created a rune in the air and with a punch transformed it into a black projectile.
Kendall released his card and it met the attack, forcing it to stop dead against an invisible barrier. He followed up with the same defense as two more attacks were levied. He was creating a path to the shield for us, between his dolled out invisible walls.
Odessa was holding her sword up, which protected a significant portion of her body mass. She pulled me behind her as a dark wave slipped between the barricades and hit us. Her feet lost traction as the wave tried to carry us with it, skidding. I braced behind her and she was able to force her sword forward, slicing through the miasma before it could push us out of cover.
I shot out at those I thought I could hit. They weren’t covered well and were caught unaware. Only moments had passed. We were nearing the discolored field which promised safety.
“I’m going all out!” Kendall shouted, retrieving a different deck from his pocket. He had run out of shield cards and had resorted to his fire spells.
Many of these students were not as educated as him, fewer still approached his power level, apparently. He let loose carnage.
Rolling cloaks of smoke billowed out from the explosions and liquid flame that doused the area. Kendall furiously threw out cards, bathing the area in fire. Those in the field were protected, so he didn’t hold back.
Buildings were collapsing. I was holding my breath the smoke was so thick as we broke through. We passed easily through the membrane of the shield and Kendall, sweeping hair out of his face, walked breathlessly into a handshake.
We kept our momentum and survived.
Kendall had carried us through.
An older gentlemen, Professor O’Reilly, I guessed. “Fine work, Kendall,” he said. “Cobb was a tough old bird.” He was stocky in build, wearing an Eidolon suit. He was balding, which seemed like something he could have had fixed.
“It was a… group effort… This is a strong field,” Kendall said, his eyes searching. They found who they’d sought as an Arabic man in a similar suit to O’Reilly, but clearly more time preserved in face and body, came out of the crowd.
“Inside here, we’re slowed to near absolute zero,” he said.
Kendall went to shake his hand. “Professor Ali,” he said. “Chronomancy is exceptional. That’s what this is?”
“To speak to God on his own terms, we must know him. Chronomancy is something I have only scratched the surface of, in my time,” Ali said sagely.
I made a note of that.
“We’re mobile,” O’Reilly said. “When the shield speeds up, so do we, temporally. We’re going to make a push to the Statehouse, and try to secure it. You’re in, Mister Kendall?”
Kendall glanced at us. Sounded good, so I nodded. “I am,” he said, resolved.
“Onward then. Ali?” O’Rielly asked.
Ali stood in the middle of the bubble and started to physically push against an invisible barrier. The shield moved forward, and we walked with him.
That’s one way to move it.
We marched on as a small army of Anarchists.