Posted by: lordkyler | January 10, 2015

Radiance Part IX: Fire at Fisher’s

Previously on Radiance, our protagonists received a tip leading them to the mansion of General Fisher. Lilly and Ian headed to the stables and garage respectively in case a distraction was required. Aria, Connor, and Drake went on to infiltrate the building. After some close calls, they managed to reach the center of the complex and pick the lock. What will they find within?

Holding her breath, Aria eased the door open, revealing an empty hallway. At the end of the hallway, carpeted stairs led to the level above, and the rich wood paneling was broken by two open doorways on each side.

Aria stole forward, followed by Connor and Drake, moving silently in case there was somebody using the rooms. The first room on the right, scouted by Aria, was lined with cabinets and desks holding perhaps thousands of files, all neatly arranged and color coded, though Aria did not know which system they were using. Connected to this room was a conference chamber, dominated by one large table and little else.

On the other side, Drake and Connor found a room dedicated to trophies and memorabilia. The shelves were lined with photographs and medals, many of which seemed to pre-date Fisher’s service. Old books filled one cabinet, and glass cases in the middle of the room held the most impressive items; antique firearms, ancient helms, and what looked like a human skull. Nothing was labelled, a clear indicator of a private collection whose curator was well familiar with the contents on display.

While Connor’s eyes lingered on the weaponry, Drake’s attention was drawn to the next room, which was filled with maps, charts, and atlases. The centerpiece was a large, oblong table depicted Republic Island in model form, complete with tiny buildings and miniature trains on ribbonlike tracks. Drake located the building they were in and smiled.

SInce nobody appeared to be on this floor, each of the three members of the infiltration team took a moment to search for anything that might lead them to their target. Aria failed to find anything in the file system, and Connor was unable to discern which items in the trophy room were valuable and which were mere keepsakes. Drake, however, found several locations marked on a large map of the continent that he was unfamiliar with, and he marked these locations for future reference.

After a few moments, the three infiltrators convened in the trophy room to discuss their next move.

“What do you reckon this haul might be worth?” Aria whispered, eyes glittering as she looked over the prizes within.

“Can’t say for certain,” Connor replied. “Definitely some antiques, some stuff just souvenirs. Not sure we have time to take anything though.”

Aria’s reply was cut short by the sound of the door clicking shut. This was followed by footsteps on the stairs at the other end of the hall.

“Surrender now and I can promise you a painless death,” called a sharp voice. “I will give no other promises nor warnings.”

Aria cursed and stole a peek past the doorway. Standing halfway down the stairs was a man that had to be General Fisher, a flint-faced, gray-haired man in dress uniform carrying a unsheathed saber. He was flanked on both sides by two bald brutes in leather armor with golden trim. They carried no visible weapons, but looked dangerous nonetheless.

Aria swore softly in Oqidan and formed a huddle with her two compatriots. “This is bad,” she said. “There’s gold on their armor. Anti-magic, I’m guessing. And they don’t look like they’re joking around.”

“Any chance of taking them out?” Connor hissed.

“Maybe. They look tough.”

“All right,” Connor said. “Strike hard, strike fast, and be ready to retreat. Got anything that can help with some extra firepower?”

Aria reached into her side pouch and pulled out two glass vials, They shimmered with an orange liquid. “Fire,” she said, and Connor nodded.

“You cut off their exit, I’ll block their advance,” he grunted, taking one of the vials. He turned to Drake. “You get the door, kid.”

Drake nodded nervously and readied his staff. Connor held his vial in a throwing grip, and Aria clipped hers into an arrow special made for the purpose. The three shared a glance, and Aria nodded.

“We surrender!” Aria shouted. Half a second later, she bolted into the hallway and fired her arrow over the heads of the three men. Connor threw his simultaneously toward their feet, and Drake snapped out with a concentrated telekinetic blast that broke the door open with a bang.

In the time it took to blink, the two bodyguards were in motion. The man on the right, wearing a lemon-yellow headband, reached out with one hand and plucked the arrow from the air in one smooth motion. The man on the left, with a gleaming pink scalp, leaned down and caught the fire vial unbroken in a similarly graceful movement.

They were fast. Impossibly fast. Connor felt his heartbeat rev up like a motor. They were using morphological magic. They were in trouble.

As they watched, Lemon and Pinky handed their captured vials to Fisher, Lem breaking the arrow’s shaft menacingly. Then, in unison, they reached into their jackets and drew thick, machete-like swords and black revolvers. Then, grinning, they bulked up.

Connor had seen it before. Morphological magic allowed those who used it to – among other things – increase their size and speed to superhuman levels. It was one of the more common magics, especially on the streets, where an extra bit of muscle or fleetness of foot could mean the difference between life and death.

But he had only heard of people using it to this extent. The loose-fitting dress uniforms seemed to fill like balloons as the men’s already significant muscles swelled to inhuman size. Their height increased by several inches, slightly exposing their ankles and midriffs. Even their faces seemed to change, tightening their features into a goblin-like leer. Then, as one, they pointed their guns and fired.

Connor and Aria were already moving, Aria rolling right into the records room, and Connor throwing himself back into the trophy room. Moving with languid power and a self-satisfied smile, Fisher took one of the fire vials he’d been given and threw it at Drake.

With a gasp, Drake tried to telekinetically bat the vial away, but was too distracted. The small container wobbled slightly, but carried through on its trajectory and burst over Drake’s long coat. The flames spread with ravenous speed as Drake stumbled backward and struggled to get the coat off.

Aria and Connor both came to the same conclusion. There was no way to outrun these monsters. The only way to escape was to incapacitate them first. Aria carried on with her roll, pausing for a scant moment beside some shelves as the two guards laughed at Drake’s predicament. Drawing the last of her three fire vials, she ran through the records room and to the corner of the conference chamber. From here, she had a clear line of sight to Lemon. She snapped the vial out with a practiced arm.

But Lem’s reflexes and speed were too quick. He swung his sword like a bridgen bat, smacking the vial out of the way with a sharp ping! The vial burst open on impact, but most of it’s contents sprayed against one wall, splattering it with liquid fire. Some of it lingered on the sword, coating the blade in blue and yellow flames. He snarled at Aria.

Meanwhile, Connor was taking a different tack. Reaching within himself, he unleashed his magical reserves, flooding his body with power. Everything seemed to slow down as he channeled his energy into increasing his speed. If he was fast enough, he wouldn’t need to be stronger than them. He didn’t have enough magic to keep up this level of energy for long, but it might be enough.

Moving like a hurricane of black cloth, he flew forward, kicking off the doorway into the map room to launch himself into the air. As he spun, he lashed out with his Makara sword like an arc of crimson lightning.

Pinky, the target of his wrath, brought his sword up in time to block the blow, though he was clearly surprised by the speed and ferocity of the attack. The clashing blades let out a horrendous, tortured shriek, and left both men with quavering hands. However, while Connor landed like a panther,Makara blade hardly scratched, Pinky was sent sprawling backward onto the steps, and his weapon was deeply notched, nearly cut in two.

Lem, moving with supernatural speed, threw his sword at Aria and turned to fire again at Drake, who had finally gotten his fiery coat off. Aria barely had time to cock her head before the sword whizzed past, shearing off a lock of her hair. One of the purple ones. The sword thudded into a stack of thick volumes, still trailing flame. His pistol shot was likewise a close shot, grazing Drake’s shoulder, and throwing a small spray of blood onto the burning coat in the hallway behind him. It sizzled.

Pinky, enraged, threw himself from the steps in a single violent action, thrusting his notched sword with all the speed of a snake. But Connor was prepared for the attack, and managed to sidestep it, deflecting the sword with a circular sweep. Pinky, having over-extended, carried on, and smashed into the map table, laying waste to the business district as he bounced off and landed on the floor.

Thinking quickly, Drake crouched low to avoid further shots, and pulled out a bright blue vial. He thrust out his arm, spinning the vial to land at Lem’s feet, where he couldn’t reach it in time to snatch it front the air.

The vial burst open, spraying a crystalline liquid all over the body-guard’s legs. Jagged lightning burst into life through the liquid, though being magical, most of it simply bounced off the man’s gold-trimmed armor. However, some liquid soaked through, delivering an electric shock that froze Lem’s legs in place. Grunting, he slumped against the wall as his muscles locked up and betrayed him.

Aria saw her chance. If she could get to Fisher and hold him hostage, she might be able to get him to call off his brutes. She rushed through the conference chamber, ignoring the growing flames, and charged up the stairs toward Fisher, long knife drawn and at the ready. Lem tried to fire a shot with his pistol, but he was stuck facing the wrong way, and couldn’t aim properly. The shot went wide.

Fisher, seeing an enraged assassin coming for him, and both his guards engaged, retreated up the stairs to the first landing and pulled a cord. Immediately, a whistle sounded, followed by clangorous chorus of bells. The alarm had been tripped.

Out in the garage and stables, Lilly and Ian heard the clamor and sprang into action. Amid the shouts of guards and spreading alarms, they turned to their prepared distractions. Lilly pulled a cord, releasing a small herd of thoroughbred horses, and snapped her whip until they bolted, thundering across the mansion grounds. Ian prepared a truck and a jeep in short order, and set them driving across the lawn of their own accord. Then, while soldiers spread out to deal with rogue horses and runaway trucks, both Ian and Lilly took to the skies, Aria on a riding drake, and Ian in the whirligig.

Meanwhile, in the mansion, Pinky was growing angry. He had not faced such a capable foe for some time, and he had never had the best temper to begin with. Rearing back onto his shoulders, he raised his legs and kicked, massive legs lifting and throwing the entire model table at Connor, a weight of at least several hundred pounds. Calling again on his flagging magic, Connor spun out of the way. The island lifted up as if thrown by a vengeful god and crashed into a glass case full of globes. The table cracked in two, crushing several globes beneath it and sending debris and tiny buildings flying in a cloud of dust and paper-mache.

Connor didn’t hesitate for a moment. Bursting through the cloud, he ran up the impromptu ramp formed by the broken table, stepped up a couple of broken shelves, and flipped around like an acrobat. He fell like a thunderbolt, firing his revolver and leveling his sword in one motion. The pistol shot took Pinky in his leg, and though Pinky raised his sword to stop the falling blade, it was not enough.

With a ring, the Makara sword broke through the notched blade and plunged deep into Pinky’s right shoulder, pinning him to the floor like an insect. The blow cut through one of the soft gold traces, and as Pinky howled, his right arm visibly deflated, shrining to a well-muscled but comparatively puny size.

Fisher and Aria were going at it hammer and tongs. Fisher was an adequate swordsman, and managed to keep Aria at bay using the longer reach provided by his saber. After a moment, Aria decided to try a different tactic, and spun to one side, drawing her bow, arrow pointed between Fisher’s eyes.

“Your goons may be fast enough to catch arrows, but you’re not,” Aria said, mouth drawn in a grim line. “Call them off.”

The General gave a derisive laugh. “Please. You’re in my home. Surrounded by my men. Even if you kill me, you won’t escape her. Stand down, and I can promise you some measure of clemency.”

“I’d rather die,” Aria spat.

“So be it,” Fisher said, and raised his sword. Aria shifted her aim to his shoulder and fired.

The arrow froze in place, inches from puncturing Fisher’s sword arm. Shocked, Aria looked up at Fisher, who held one hand in the air. He had caught the arrow with telekinesis. Aria felt her jaw drop as Fisher began to laugh. Then, dropping the arrow, he continued the attack with his sword, driving Aria back.

Out on the mansion grounds, chaos ruled. Horses ran wild, screaming in fear, while men tried to calm them. The truck hit the sidewalk and veered to one side, crashing into the house and hitting a soldier as it drove. The Jeep smashed into the fence surrounding the compound and began a continuous honk. Above it all, Ian flew around gleefully on the whirligig, dropping smoke bombs and fire vials on a column of soldiers and taking potshots at those who had figured out he wasn’t on their side.

Lilly dug her heels into the side of the bluish-gray drake, urging it to climb higher. Its broad wings fanned the air, following orders, though its eyes were wild. Figuring that they had made it to the center of the mansion, Lilly directed the drake onto the roof of the outer ring. Its claws clacked against the tiles, and it hissed at the smoke beginning to pour from the roof. Lilly dismounted and swung over the lip of the roof and into a window. It broke open and she found herself in an empty guest room. The sound of fighting drifted through the door, and Lilly readied her weapons. She might be walking into anything. Then she kicked the door down.

While Lilly was breaking in and Connor and Aria were busy, Drake had been having troubles of his own with Lem. Feet frozen and unable to protect his boss, the bandana-clad bodyguard vented his ire toward the young magician. He emptied the remainder of his revolver in Drake’s direction. Drake spun to one side, but one of the bullets took him in the shoulder, and he cried out. However, he kept his focus, and used the last of his magical energy to pick up his fiery coat and throw it at Lem.

The thick, smoldering coat wrapped around Lem like a net, smothering him in blackening leather and red flames. Lem thrashed at the coat, eventually throwing it off, just as the electricity vial wore off, freeing his legs.

Drake gulped and reached for another vial, a cloudy blue one this time. It also broke over Lem’s feet, splashing ice and frost in a white mist, this time literally freezing Lem in place. Growling, he pulled hard, and his feet began to break loose with a disturbing cracking sound. Drake threw a smoke vial and stayed very quiet.

Aria spun and deflected a saber slash, then stepped back and drew her bow again, training an arrow at Fisher’s heart. She had telekinesis herself, and it would have drained her to stop an arrow. Perhaps Fisher wouldn’t be able to stop a second. Perhaps.

But Fisher stepped in close, hovering the edge of his saber beside Aria’s neck.

“What now?” he asked. Aria didn’t reply. Before she could loose her arrow, Fisher flicked his wrist, and sheared through the bowstring. The bow whirred with loosening clockwork and springs, and her arrow fell loose. Stunned, Aria wasn’t prepared for the kick that sent her stumbling down the stairs, ending up on one knee with a limp bow. Fisher began to descend the stairs, hoping to finisher her off, but just then Connor came flying out between them and crashed into the wall.

While Aria had been fighting Fisher, Connor had been trying to finish off the surprisingly resistant Pinky. The man had reached out with his left hand to grasp Connor’s shirt, but Connor had caught his wrist instead and intended to finish the man with a shot to the head. However, Pinky jerked him to one side, causing the shot to go into his other shoulder instead.

When Connor had drawn his wakizashi to stab him through the heart, Pinky had raised his injured right arm and taken the blade through his palm. Grunting, Connor leaned forward, driving the point lower and lower, ever closer to Pinky’s heart. And then Pinky had exploded.

Connor had seen this before too, though never so violently. A sudden surge by a morphologist near death, using his last magic for a microsecond of godlike strength. Every muscle in Pinky’s body doubled in size instantly, to the point where it sealed the wakizashi in place. Then, using his sudden, freakish strength, he tossed Connor to one side with all the force of a grenade.

Fortunately, Connor was prepared, and used the last of his magically-enhanced reflexes to position himself in midair, spinning past the doorframe and landing against the wall next to the stairs, directly between Aria and Fisher. He rebounded roughly, but ably, and took a look at Fisher.

He turned back for a second to wink at Aria, and then launched himself toward Fisher, drawing his quickblade and a throwing knife in the same motion. Despite his reach, Fisher had to throw himself back to avoid the furious onslaught.

Aria, seeing they had traded off, charged for Pinky, who had shrunk back to his original size. About time, Aria thought. She had never seen anyone use morphological magic at such a level for so long. Pinky tried to sit up, but the sword in his shoulder was too painful. He kicked at her, but Aria simply pounced and sunk her knife into the side of his neck. Pinky was no more.

Lem was, unfortunately, very much alive. With a grunt, he broke free of the ice and charged through the smoke, now totally focused on killing Drake. The young man saw him coming, but could only move a few inches out of the way before Lem slammed into him like a freight train. The force of the blow spun him like a top, and sent him crashing to one side. He slumped against the wall, wind knocked out of him. Lem’s momentum carried him into the wall just next to the doorway leading out.

He took a moment to get his bearings, but before he could charge again, something caught his eye. A redhead was running down the hallway on lithe feet. He watched, scowling, as she stretched out a hand and extinguished the flames left by Drake’s burning coat using magic. Before he could figure out who she was, she threw a vial at him with a clear liquid. For the third time in as many minutes, it burst over his feet. He jerked his left leg away, but his right leg was too slow, and he found he couldn’t move it. Lilly had used a sticky vial, gluing his leg to the carpet and wall.

WIth a feral roar, Lem yanked back, tearing his trouser leg free from the wall, and tearing off pieces of wall that had stuck to his trousers. With a violent tug, he strained against his heavy duty boots, and began to pull against the carpet, tearing it as he went. He was hobbled, but he was still coming.

Lilly prepared a bolt on her crossbow and fired it, but Lem caught it from the air with irritation. Drake shimmied along the wall, hoping to find refuge in the trophy room. Both rooms on the right were now fully aflame, and the hallway was beginning to grow impassible from the spreading fires.

Lem’s face was now as bright a red as his bandanna was yellow. Like Pinky, he suddenly surged, tearing out of his boots and his jacket. Then, reduced to normal size, he charged at Drake, fire and murder in his eyes. Drake dropped to one side and stuck out his staff. Lem, hampered by his anger and his burns, did not react in time, and tripped over the pole, stumbling into the rising flames. He did not get up again.

With Fisher’s bodyguards defeated, there was now only the man himself. Connor and Fisher fought hard, but Fisher knew his time was running out. Half of this floor was on fire, his bodyguards were dead, and he would soon be outnumbered. Speaking a vile curse, he reached into his dress jacket and pulled out a small pouch, which he threw at Connor’s face. Connor cut the bag open, but it sprayed blinding powder in his face. Connor stepped back, and by the time he had cleared his vision, Fisher was gone, up on the second story of the central tower.

Connor stared upward, but there wasn’t time to pursue the General. The fire was growing too rapidly, and the high chances of an ambush combined with the low odds of escape to create an unappealing picture.

“Guys? We’d better hurry,” Lilly called. “Servants are coming.”

“Connor, come on,” Aria shouted. “We don’t have any more time. We’ll have to find another lead.”

Connor turned back and rushed down the stairs, leaping over the licking flames into the debris of the map room. Wearied, he stumbled, but Aria helped him up and handed him his weapons back. Together, they passed through the trophy room to join Drake and Lilly, who stood at the doorway keeping water-toting servants at bay. Lilly cleared a path with her whip, leading them to the window she had come in through.

They found Ian hovering by the window, having come to see what was taking so long. They worked out a quick plan. Connor hopped out of the window to grab onto the side of the whirligig, which dipped as he landed but soon recovered. Ian handed Connor his rifle and backed away to provide cover fire. Lilly shimmied up over the edge of the roof to reclaim her waiting drake, and Drake produced a grappling hook that allowed him and Aria to climb down to the ground.

The whole compound was in pandemonium. Fire had reached the roof, coloring the sky red, and sirens and whistles sang in the distance as emergency responders approached. The military barracks were alive with searchlights and marching troops coming into order, and servants and soldiers on the grounds tried to make sense of the stampeding horses, fires, and loose vehicles.  In this, Aria and Drake descended largely unnoticed, and Lilly flew on toward the stables, where she had kept several drakes as a getaway plan.

Her drake descended gracefully, eager to be joining its fellows, great wings casting diaphanous shadows on the ground. About ten feet before they landed, a shot rang out, and the drake slumped over, dead. Lilly threw herself clear of the animal, twisting her ankle as she landed awkwardly.

The noise drew Ian’s attention, and he followed the sound to see Fisher leaning out of a high window holding a sniper rifle. Pointed directly at them. Ian cut the gas, sending them plummeting to the ground. Another gunshot, and he heard the bullet ping off the rotors overhead. He restarted the motor and revved the engine just in time to catch them before they crashed.

“Go!” Ian yelled at Connor, taking back his rifle. Connor jumped and sprinted for the stables, where the rest of the crew were mounting drakes. Ian cradled the gun against his shoulder and snapped the barrel toward Fisher’s vantage point, squinting with one dark eye through the scope.

There was Fisher, dialing in the shot. Ian calculated for distance, for wind, for time… In a heartbeat, he knew Fisher would shoot first. So he slapped the switch on his chest.

An ear-shattering explosion ruptured the air as a fireball burst the garage apart, the result of the natural gas trap Ian had set earlier. The blinding flash and sudden concussion threw off Fisher’s aim, and the bullet whistled past Ian’s ear. Ian’s shot, though also slightly thrown by the explosion, took Fisher in the arm, and he fell back into the building with a shout. Ian allowed himself a small grin as he started up the whirligig again and took off.

A few soldiers noticed the fleeing drakes, but a couple of shots from Ian were enough to make them dive for cover long enough to get away. Fisher’s mansion fell behind them, an island of light against the dim streetlights.

A few skywngs – light aircraft for a single passenger – zipped by, spotlights shining, but although they were faster, they couldn’t fire around civilian buildings, and the more maneuverable drakes soon lost them by flying low among the darkened buildings. When the time was right, they released the drakes, crashed the whirligig in a construction site, and escaped through the subway tunnels until they reached their safehouse.

Aria and Lilly applied some first aid to Drake’s shoulder wound, and the party collapsed into their beds without a further word.

They awoke late the next morning to the sound of newsboys proclaiming the headlines. A night’s rest had done much for their minor scratches, but Drake’s injury would take some time to heal. While they hadn’t got what they’d been looking for, they had learned a few things, and felt a bit wiser for the experience. Those who had drained their magical energy felt some of it return.

They determined to stay low for a few days. While the fire at Fisher’s had made the headlines, there was apparently little information released, and they heard nothing that implicated an attack. Likely Fisher wouldn’t want that knowledge spreading.

However, a different headline caught their ears, drawing their interest enough to prompt Aria to don a disguise and buy a paper.

“What does it say?” Ian asked as she returned.

“It’s worse than we thought,” Aria replied, flipping the paper onto the table. “Much worse.”

Read Herald Article

•••

DUN DUN DUUUUNNNN!!!

As you may recall, gold is a special metal that reflects magical energy. However, there is more than one use for this property, as you may be able to figure out. The crew have been doing pretty good against opponents so far. It may not be too long before they end up with more than they can handle.

Also, after quite a bit of work in the always handy Hero Machine, and some fancy-dancy Photoshop work, I am pleased to present this group photograph of the crew!

Behold, the intrepidity is off the trepid charts!

Our Intrepid Heroes (Click for Larger View)

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