Up ahead was a Utopian battlement. Glacially moving Students were throwing down energy barriers, which Ali strained and pushed through. Our collective, numbering around sixty, I quickly counted, were unstoppable. Someone, a Professor, I thought, was standing on a rooftop. He raised up his hands, slowly, and there came a beam of heavenly light which failed to do more than brighten the field. Soon Ali had made a path through the Utopians, bending and crushing anything in our way.
Behind us, they were panicking as we marched down the road. I noticed that among our numbers, being pushed along with us were a few normal looking people. They seemed okay with all this.
I tapped on the shoulder of one of the guys pushing one along and asked.
“Hostages,” he said. “Civilian volunteers that aren’t supposed to be hurt.”
“Hi,” the hostage said, somewhat giddy.
The dude’s having fun.
There was someone, nearly a boy in age, weaving through the mob, and checking over people as he went. He came up to me, and his eyes widened.
“You know you’re walking on fractured bones right?” he asked.
I was good at ignoring pain, I guessed.
“Peripherally aware.” Though I was limping, a little.
He pulled out a scroll and started reading in a foreign tongue. I was following along the meanings as he went, my sense of them. Attunement was stronger.
I jerked when he threw a sprinkling of water on me. Hadn’t seen it coming, focusing so heavily on the information around me.
“There you go…. uh-oh…” For a moment, I thought he meant my health, but he had turned and stood on his toes. I was taller than most and only craned a touch to see over the crowd.
I chuckled. This is going to be fun.
The Bruiser, the one Odessa had sent flying, was in the road. He was walking in slow-mo straight towards our shield, utterly fearless. His gleaming helmet tilted down as he started barreling forward. We had seconds before contact.
He’s too confident. He’s untouched. He’s subverting, not absorbing, he couldn’t be. Feels disconnected like he’s redirecting damage somewhere. Connections?
I quickly scanned the surroundings. I dug into the abstract and strained my mind for what his connection lead to. There, in the shadow of a building, was an ethereal wisp, half hidden behind a tree.
“He’s got a totem!” I cried, pointing, but I was drowned out when shouting erupted. The Bruiser had met the shield, and it was being moved. Ali was straining against his invisible wall, his feet skidding backward down the road.
I pushed through the mob, repeating my cry and keeping my hand out. I bellowed louder, angry, and a few people startled. The Bruiser’s head darted between my outstretched hand and his totem. He jumped to the side, coming just barely between the Totem and a ball of energy which had been hurled. Again, he took the hit like a rag doll, taking to the stratosphere.
Ali had resumed the push, but we’d lost some of our minuscule lead, and the outside world was catching up. The Bruiser had gone into and out of a structure, and it was collapsing into a cloud of smoke.
We charged into the murk, picking up speed, and subsequently speeding up the world outside. We passed through, blind for a moment, and emerged.
“Wolves,” someone said. In the road and on the skyline were students. Christopher, was among them, not far from the oldest among them, who I understood to be Wulff. The salt and pepper haired man, in grey formal, snapped his fingers.
The shield dropped, and so did Ali. Dead.
Wulff spread his arms, utterly dauntless. He knew he and his students, by themselves, could handle us. Nothing happened as he waited for us to make the first move, and none of us would. I quickly tried to look at each of them, gathering by everything from composure to expression what they did. It was too much. They were all too powerful.
A minute passed, and nothing happened.
Wulff moved a hand to his ear and put his back to us. Christopher changed his demeanor and watched him. All eyes were on the man.
Then, he disappeared. Gone. Teleported. Left. Why?
Somebody screamed, and an explosion marked the beginning of all hell breaking loose. Wulff’s students ran for the most part, but some returned fire. An arrow flew at me. Suddenly everything went. Every bit of my senses fell away. I kept running, but I felt like a deaf person trying to speak, unsure if anything was happening.
I must have made it out of the area of effect, because when my senses returned I was crawling and writhing on the ground. I hadn’t escaped, but it had stopped. There was an arrow piercing my foot and some of the asphalt, anchoring me. It hurt like a bitch.
People were running over me, some of them had been struck with arrows same as me, but had remained upright. Lying on the ground, I took a few pot shots at students on the skyline, my lightning bolts throwing off their aim. I had attracted attention.
I was one of a few turkeys either pinned, immobile or daft, still stuck in the open. There was a girl within touching distance which was missing a leg, crying out. A spear sailed and drove through her skull. It started to glow and rev.
Goddamn, this is more brutal than I’d thought.
I’m not dying. That’s not who I am. I don’t die.
Blotting out my pain, I screamed and pulled. The arrow snapped. Madly, I gained ground, staggering up into an unstable limp. I was going for a shop front, where other’s had fled. In the open door was the kid healer, nervously holding the door for me.
Looking back, there was only one anarchist, standing among the dead, deflecting and dealing long distance damage with nunchucks. Christopher hadn’t moved from where he’d been and was watching me flee, staring. He tore his eyes away and calmly started to walk towards that last survivor, who was holding his own.
Hobbling inside, my sight was obstructed. I had a feeling how it would go, though.
The healer was following beside me, chanting again. I was looking for Kendall. People were putting upwards, trying to secure the building. By their faces, though, it wasn’t working. I was prepared this time when he threw water on me. My foot steadied to a baseline of pain, but still left me with a limp. Bleeding stopped.
“Some magus just arrived. Utopians are getting schlonged,” Ash radioed.
“Updates are good,” Kendall’s voice came in.
“Where are you, Kendall?” I said.
“Doran? Odessa, Catherine, and I are with O’Reilly, going for the Statehouse.”
“Where are you?”
“Moving fast. We’re not waiting for you.”
“Professors are leavin’ the game,” Ash added.
“Yeah, I noticed. It’s good for us.”
Somehow, I doubted that.
“I’m on my way,” I said.
The ten or so students in this building were mostly sitting or standing around, unsure of what to do. Somehow we’d all been left behind.
“We have to keep moving,” I said.
“Nah,” a guy said. “We can hold out here. It’s not going to work anyway.”
“Things don’t happen unless you make them. Get off your ass.”
“Or?” he challenged.
I shot him. He convulsed and fell over. Everyone had stopped.
“Holy shit,” someone swore.
“Why the fuck are we getting blown to pieces, if we’re not taking this seriously?” I said. Anna briefly came to mind. Before anyone could reply, I hammered in.”We’re moving now.”
“Th-the, building, it’s surrounded,” the young healer said.
I smiled wickedly. Control. “Not a problem.”
One of the magus had been able to put a hole into the earth, which descended at an angle. I had remembered what Anna had said. This was my plan.
I jumped in and slid down the smooth passage, until I met a short drop, and landed in the narrow tunnel. My bad foot ached on the landing, and I had to prop up against the wall. One by one, the rest followed into the dark. Somebody spoke a spell, and a glowing mist flowed down the hall, barely illuminating it.
We spaced out some and started running down the tunnels. We had a Seer, to navigate us. We must have jogged for around a half hour before someone needed to stop. My foot was killing me, but I wouldn’t have stopped.
The tunnels had gotten wider, and we had passed into sewers, I reckoned. Shallow water flowed over my feet. I was waterproof, but others were complaining of wet feet.
Even with the light on my gun, the darkness of these passages were bad, in that they left us vulnerable to certain attacks. I had sensed disturbances, and we had had to stop no less than three times before to work on counteracting a spell.
Not to mention the miasma of crap.
“Is no one a teleporter?” I had assumed someone would have brought it up by now. I was holding out for an idiot, though.
“I’ve been using a haste spell, on everyone,” came a voice.
That must have helped my foot.
“It would take us an hour and forty-two minutes to draft a teleportation spell,” our Seer said. She continued, “we are only an hour away.”
“Let’s move then.”
Our jog had reduced to a trudge, in the dark.
After some time, the Seer spoke.
“There’s something wrong. We need to do a headcount.”
I turned my guns light back, and others contributed to the illumination.
“Where’s the healer?” I asked.
“We must have left him behind,” a man said.
“No. There’s no path to him. He’s dropped out,” the Seer’s voice had lowered.
“He’s dead?” I whispered, taking her cue.
“Has to be!” she panicked. Others murmured or cursed.
“There’s not ah soul following our company, though,” someone else said.
I made my way to the back of the group and peered into the black. I could see.
With all the lights, it was hard, though.
“Dimmer please.” They obliged.
I squinted, gazing back down the sewer tunnel. There was a shimmering. It had a shape. The shimmering intensified. It wasn’t though. It was drawing closer.
“Androids!” I yelled.
Every one of them came out of hiding, their image solidifying. There were dozens of them, each working in perfect unison. I opened fire into their mass, and the tangle of limbs and bodies moved to minimize damage. The horde artfully moved forward, dodging the barrage being thrown at them, through flips and jumps.
The tunnel flashed with energy bolts and fireballs. The androids weren’t going down. A spike came out of the dark and hit me in the chest. The metal dented flat against me, as the fabric hardened to stop it. I was sent sprawling back with the force. Someone, as the machines gained ground, decided to create a force field. The fighting stopped.
The Seer helped me up. Now blocked, the droids were patient as they scanned the barrier. Already looking for a way to break through it.
“It’s a Technicist,” I choked out the words. My chest was constricting. “They’re hijacking the military droids.” Rib cage fractured. “…Upgrading them.”
“We need to surface.”
“No… keep moving.”
We kept on, leaving the field in place. After a long walk, the Seer finally said it.
“We’re here.” It was a ladder, which ascended into the ceiling.
Others went first. I stayed behind until they’d gone, and the darkness was complete. I threw back my hood, and my night vision remained. I held my gun trained down the tunnel. Figures danced in the dark, tricks of the eye.
More dwell outside of sight than in the light. Voices.
I jumped the ladder and quickly climbed. I exited the hatch, to find everyone waiting. We were off the road a ways, and there were three of our group missing. Standing in some back alley, the evening sun was hidden behind the buildings to our sides.
The Seer pointed. A white skyscraper rose above the rest. The Statehouse.
I could make out three figures suspended in the air around the tower. From this distance, I couldn’t be sure, but it looked the Beaulieu brothers.
I touched my coms. “Kendall, are you in?”
“Just coming up now. The civilians should be gathered in the court, at the top,” he replied. I could hear his ragged breath, running up stairs. “…It’s em-!”
The Statehouse was eviscerated by bolts of blue light. Obliterated so violently, that the light from the explosion was painful to see. The entire structure was carried off like dust scattered on the shock-wave, which rushed down at us. Debris fell like hell-fire.