Thursday, November 4, 2010

Episode Sixteen

Episode Sixteen


Anticipation has a habit to set you up
For disappointment in evening entertainment but
Tonight there'll be some love
Tonight there'll be a ruckus yeah
Regardless of what's gone before
-Arctic Monkeys 

   Lucas frantically scanned the walls, the shelves, racks, and then the floor. "More activity, Mar. Recent. Summoning circles...And a...Vector...Alignment...Marie!"

   She lurched to a halt, but the toe of her boot hit the edge of the curved runic circles she could not see. Rust colored powder skittered out from under her. Red vector lines shot into the air, arched, bled into deep black and dove down. She crouched, glaring up at the incoming darkness--barbed, and shiny with spikes. 

   A blur of motion ignited the air in front of her. Lucas materialized, grabbing her about the waist. 

   They vanished. 

   Reappearing on the cross beams of the rafters, Lucas stood panting while Marie stared down at the spirit below. It crashed onto the floor where she'd been moments before. The darkness split and shattered, writhing on the ground like a headless snake. 

   Lucas' grip on her deepened. "When I tell you to wait--"

   Marie slapped his hand away. "Open Second tier constructs."

    "Fine." Lucas held his right hand over his left. His fingertips arched down, brushing the top of his hand, held out straight in front of him. "Construction." A white hot glow rose just beyond his fingertips, revolving and solidifying. A dial of white runic letters, with three distinct and counter rotating lamina, churned under his fingers. "Unit 0 Resonance. Acknowledge Third Level Order. Compliance." The white mist turned gilded. "Second Tier Release."

   The darkness rattled, re-gathering, reconstructing into an undulating mass. Marie stood, her right arm encased in gold light. "Stay back."

   Lucas let her walk out in front of him. Out on thin air; as if it were glass. Her eyes narrowed at the reforming spirit, the light pulsing and dancing out from her body in a long line that split and arched in both directions over her head. A huge golden war axe, ornate and shimmering even in the dim warehouse, formed between her fingers.

"Where's the child."

   The Shadow Spirit hissed with the sound of a tier's fast leak and a foul smell jetted upwards. A glob of darkness shifted into an elongated mouth. "Chi-auld?" A long sticky tongue, dripping oily darkness, slid from the mouth and wrapped around its solidifying, then disintegrating head. "Wha-uat chi-auld?" 

   Lucas let his right hand drop to his side, his jaw tightening. "Corrupted? Or just messing with us?"

   "That thing look like normal yōkai to you?"

   The creature oozed forward and lapped at the brace bars from the floor, as if to sniff them out. The mouth opened and shut, the vile black tongue lolling.


   "Transport denied." 



   The outlines of Lucas' body blurred. He vanished from the rafter, appearing less than a second later on the ground floor. He raised his right hand, the gold mist paling to white, the runic compass turning. "Order Acknowledged. Containment. Level 4."

   "You have clearly lost your innocence and become a Wraith." Marie lowered the axe, pointing the aureate spiked top at the corrupted creature. "For illegal use of local Ley Lines and crimes against humanity, I, Marie Selutera Factory Clasp of the Third Order sentence you to Oblivion."
Lucas' hands shot forward. The glow surrounded the Wraith, fanned out, split in a million ways and became a net. He pulled his hands in. The net shrank, sticking to the ground, contorting the Wraith and forcing it to flatten against the floor.

   It screamed.

   The sound was multi-tonal, alien yet disturbingly familiar. It blasted the warehouse in fetid streams of echoing air. Lucas started. The net jumped in time with his surprise. A blob of darkness pulsed against the white lines, causing a few to shuttered and rise.

    "Focus!" Marie darted forward, the gold axe filling his vision. "Keep it still."

   Darkness boiled and throbbed. A bubble formed in between the net's fibers. It grew.
   Maria swung the axe, slicing the top of the bubble.
   Another pulsed. The Wraith screamed. The net shuddered as the creature threw its form against it, writhing and tossing solidified shadows.
   Maria spun the blade over the top, slicing blobs of oily black as they puffed up through the net. The blobs twisted then evaporated in the air. With each slice, the scream grew louder, the smell fouler, and Lucas' hold began to slip.

   A length of shadow shot from the net with a hiss of steam. The barrier weakened. Another broke through a hole. Maria skipped backwards as long arms of darkness jetted towards her. One snapped around her ankle and pulled backwards, towards Lucas. She was jerked forward, but forced herself to twist and got a glimpse of the elongated blob break off and head for Lucas before she spun the axe under her, slicing the cord to the Wraith, and then hurled her weapon.

   Her body hit the ground in time with a crunch of metal embedding itself into concrete. Lucas glanced down at her from behind the golden axe, the remaining strands of the Wraith denigrating from hitting the blade.

   Pressure snapped around Marie's wrist, her waist and her throat. Her free hand tore at it, finding it eerily soft and wet under her nails; but it would not be shirred away. Her jeans ripped along the side as she threw her weight forward, fighting the pull of the Wraith as it slowly retracted its arms, mouth wide, tongue lapping.
   "O-open...L-Luc...Ack!" The darkness tightened on her throat, squeezing hard enough to make her vision swim and extinguish the order in her mouth. She leaned forward, clawing at the cement for any kind of purchase. She looked up, desperately trying to form the words to get Lucas to help her.

   He was standing, the hand embedded with the runic compass out, the other's fingers above. Gold washed over the white runes. Gold rushed down the lines connecting him to the net making the whole warehouse glow blinding bright. The axe vanished.

   Light encased Marie. She felt its resonance, felt the bonds of restraint snap. As did the Wraith's hold.
   The light receded. Lucas fell to a knee, but kept the spirit trapped. Gold flashed behind him. He smiled, wearily. "Batter up..."

   Marie, a blur of illumination in full armor, swung the reforming axe, the blade an arc of radiance, into the middle of the Wraith. Light collided with shadow. A burst of otherworldly energy rocked the warehouse.

   Lucas stared down at the reddened dirt outside the warehouse with a frown. He rubbed the top of his hand distractedly and turned as the golden image of Marie appeared in the doorway. A blood red cape flowed from her shoulders and the dim sunlight played on the delicate etching in her breastplate, the war axe balanced casually on her shoulder.

   She glanced at him, then quickly at the dirt at his feet. "Thanks."

   "My job." He shrugged. "Saving pretty ladies in distress is what I do."

   Her gaze returned to him, eyes narrowed. "There a reason you acted like a frightened rookie in there?"

   Lucas kicked the dispersing rune sand. He knelt, batting more aside and sighed, picking up a small yellow rain boot, covered in mud. 

   "We'll check with the farmers. See if any of the children really are missing."

   Lucas gripped the shoe and took a deep breath, then slid it into his coat pocket, his free hand idly squeezing a silver cuff at his right ear between finger and thumb.

   "You wanna warn the kitten."

   Lucas shrugged airily, fingers jerking away from the cuff. "I just think he'd enjoy it here." He pulled his cigarettes and lighter from his coat, packing them against the side of his hand. "I think he's bored."

   "So he's picked up whining from you."

   Lucas smirked at his cigarettes. "Wouldn't be the only thing."

   Marie shifted the axe across her shoulders, wrists draping over its hilt. "We'll head back when you're done."

   Lucas tilted his head towards the sky, took a long drag, then blew it out slowly towards the thin wisps of clouds.
     In the cafeteria lunch line, Tobie flinched as he reached out for cup of orange jello. The cup jolted and spun, nearly falling between his tray and the metal rungs. Gus grabbed it.

   "Okay man?" he asked, taking it for himself. 

   "Yeah. Sides were wet." Tobie slid his tray to the check out, resisting the urge to rub the at the top of his ear as he pulled his student ID from his wallet.

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