IX – The Hunt Begins
Artemis froze at the sound of the voice, the source seeming to be right beside his head. But he was alone, wasn’t he? The room was only four feet wide and five feet deep, there was no way someone could have been crammed in there without him knowing.
“Artemis!” The distorted voice called again, this time more forceful than the last.
“Who are you?” The boy demanded weakly, his strength ever seeping from his body. “How are you in here?”
The mysterious being replied with a rather disappointed tone. “I’m not with you, Artemis. I’m in your head.”
Oh great. Artemis thought to himself. Am I going insane? He frowned, utterly displeased at the prospect of losing his precious sanity. “That still doesn’t answer my first question.”
“Why it’s me Artemis, Quan! And no you’re not going insane.” The voice stated.
Artemis’ eyes shot open, his previous stupor now gone completely. “Quan? I was under the impression that you were in a catatonic state somewhere else within this facility.”
“Indeed I still am.” The warlock said sadly. “N°1 and I have been here for quite a while, acting as batteries for that foolish pixie. Her magic and machinery make us almost powerless against it. She has virtually punched a hole in the earth’s magical system, causing for a continuous flow of magic from which she can generate enormous amounts of power. We are the catalyst, the channel through which she diverts the earth’s magic into her generators, it’s truly an incredible current of pure arcane energy. Even now I am expending enormous amounts of strength just to talk to you.”
Artemis raised an eyebrow, intrigued. “And how are you doing that? Is N°1 there as well?”
Quan chuckled a little, the distorted voice echoing within the boy’s mind. “That young imp still has much to learn. He’s not capable of communicating, the combined stress would very well cause permanent damage. I on the other hand can do so safely. It’s a simple process of using arcane magic to temporarily remove the consciousness from the physical form, stretching it out into the metaphysical world around it. Think of it as walking out your front door with a rope attached to your waist, you can walk freely in the world beyond, interact with others, but you are still bound to the place from which you came. With it I can insert my own self into the minds of others, creating a magic catalyzed link between myself and the other, though at times it may be difficult depending on the fortification of that individual’s own consciousness. I have to say, I’ve been trying to break through into yours since you arrived here, you’ve got an extraordinary amount of willpower for a human. Anyway, under normal circumstances I would be able to travel vast distances in this form, but given the situation I can barely reach where you are now.”
Artemis nodded to himself, the old warlock’s explanation making perfect sense to him. “Don’t worry, I am certain that our friends will be here within a relatively short span of time. When they do we’ll get you out of there.”
Quan spoke to him in a hushed tone, as though he was being listened to. “Don’t you make the mistake of underestimating Opal for a second! Through the ancient spell that she used on us, she has gained unprecedented levels of magical power, and will attain many times more if she accomplishes her plan.”
Artemis’ interest skyrocketed at that. What plan? Opal hadn’t disclosed her entire scheme to him after all, only a mere fraction to entice a response from him. It was a cutting blow for Artemis, he was certain that the pixie had divulged all the details. He was wrong. “What is it Quan? What’s she planning next!” The boy demanded, eager to fill in the blanks that had now formed in his knowledge of Koboi’s strategy. He had thought her to be the same villain he’d faced before, prone to the same mistakes, and yet she had been toying with him. The assault on Haven was just a fraction of her intent, no doubt to ease her true efforts.
There was a momentary pause, as though the warlock had put him on hold. When he responded his voice was hurried and nervous. “I can’t go into that right now, it will take too long to explain and I don’t have that time. She’s going to sense what I’m doing if I keep this up, and if she does I fear for your safety. I’ll make this quick…”
A sudden jolt of energy tore through Artemis’ body, as though he were being electrocuted by a hundred bolts of lightening. But as quickly as the shock came, it disappeared, replaced by a warm tingling in the back of his mind. His body felt rejuvenated, as though it were never hurt, the aches and bruises gone instantly. Magic.
“Yes, Artemis. I just gave you a small dose of magic, like wiring money from one bank account to another. It’s only a tiny amount, but it will be sufficient for what is coming.”
“And what is that?” Artemis asked, thrilled by the feeling that magic instilled.
Quan spoke with assurance. “I know that they will come for you, and you will be rescued. But when you are freed, I will need you to free us. The magic I just gave you will be required in order to give us the nudge necessary to unlock the metaphysical chains that bind us. Given your understanding of magic and a plethora of related subjects, I feel that you are the best candidate to make this work. Oh and have this too.”
Artemis’ head spun as a flurry if images flooded his mind, spilling in like a deluge of thought. He saw thousands of things at once, a raging tide of scenes and colors. The boy felt dizzy as he put a hand to his head, rubbing it carefully. Quan spoke again into his mind. “Those were simply the directions to the place in which we are being held. They will prove useful, this facility is a maze of death if you don’t know where you’re going.”
Sure enough, Artemis began to piece together the images into a coherent map of the facility. The size of it boggled his mind, thousands upon thousands of tunnels and passageways twisting in random directions, a spider web of passages, chambers and colossal caverns. Surely even he would have gotten lost had he been forced to search for Quan without any sense of direction.
“I have to go now, she’s getting close. Just remember Artemis, Opal may have relatively the same persona she had years ago, but there’s also a new dimension to her, one far more dangerous than anything imaginable. Be careful, and good luck.”
With that the presence faded away, leaving Artemis alone once more in the oppressing cell. The magic had failed to do one thing, and that was easing his hunger and thirst, which plagued him relentlessly as he sat upon the cold floor, his body shaking from the cold. He willed the discomfort away. He had to hold on, for his friends and family, for the People and the whole of humanity. Now all he had to do was wait, wait and hope that they would make it through. As the boy envisioned his friends valiantly taking on Koboi, the frigid air twirled around him, the howl of wind passing under the door rising like a choir of the dead.
Haven City – Police Plaza
The air was thick with the residue of war, smoke and dust still present hours after the final shots had been fired. Haven’s raging fires had been almost completely doused, but the city still smoldered weakly, smoke rising from the flattened metropolis as it escaped from the battle charred earth. Countless bodies littered the streets, the dead remnants of the colossal daemon army covering the ground. Burnt out tanks, destroyed artillery and crashed gunships were strewn about as well, their deadly forms rendered useless by the combined forces that had overwhelmed them. Distant rumbles echoed across the city as ruined buildings crumbled, the taller structures downtown falling one by one as their foundations finally gave out. The air was filled with emergency craft, as well as a great number of assault ships and drones, still vigilant against any new threats.
Since the allied victory, Haven had become a giant relief effort. Thousands of injured fairies and displaced civilians were tended to, food and supplies being shipped in from Atlantis and any other surrounding settlements in an attempt to aid the extirpated city. It had been the single most disastrous event for the People since the great wars of old, one that would no doubt be carried far into the future within the archives of history and remembrance, a moment in their history where so many gave everything to assure the survival of their kind. As the city began to regain a sense of control and stability, the fallen were finally given rest. They had put their lives on the line with selfless courage and determination, and had paid the ultimate price for the ones they loved. They would not be forgotten.
Commander Trouble Kelp solemnly stood watch as the deceased officers that were under his command were taken from the battlefield, a deeply saddened look on his face, his helmet held in the crook of his arm. How victory had cost them, how great a price had been paid! As the leader of LEP forces, Trouble couldn’t help but feel responsible for each and every one of them. He regretted that which he failed to do, and he felt the snide remarks in the back of his mind telling him that he had failed. But he suppressed these things, knowing that such self destructive thought would only be of detriment to his ability to lead those that still lived onward.
As he took in the morbid scene, Foaly chimed in on his communicator. “You wanted a report on their progress Commander?” He asked tiredly, his energy long gone from the constant stress.
“Go ahead Foaly.” Trouble responded, not taking his eyes from his fallen comrades.
The centaur cleared his throat. “Alright. They have finished gathering their forces, and have now moved out as per Mulch’s instruction. I still can’t believe we’re following his lead, but it’s not like we have any other options.”
Kelp didn’t move, his speech reserved and his mind numb. “I know how you feel. We’ll just have to trust him.”
Foaly didn’t talk for a few seconds, seeming hesitant to say something. When he did, there were equal measures of fear and anger in his voice. “Do you really think that Opal is behind all of this?”
Trouble grimaced slightly, the name bringing up many bad memories, the loss of Julius on the very top. “I honestly hope not. I’d rather face a million other foes than her. But regardless of who it is, they will be brought to justice.” He clenched his fists as he continued his watch over his officers. “Holly and the others will see to that, I know they won’t fail. They will see it through to the end.”
Foaly nodded on his side of the link, a worried frown growing on his visage. “I just hope they’ll be alright. We’ve lost too many already…”
“I couldn’t agree with you more.” Trouble stated. “They will pull through, I just know it.”
“I hope to the gods that you’re right.” Foaly said quietly, wishing that he could have such confidence. But with everything that had happened, he just wasn’t sure anymore. Death had been within a hair’s breadth of them all, and he couldn’t shake the feeling that things were only just getting started.
Abandoned Tunnels – Ten Miles Outside Haven
The dark expanse of the rugged tunnel stretched onward into oblivion, no light coming from anywhere ahead, as though all that awaited was darkness eternal. The passage was cut through the dense bedrock that was ubiquitous at such depth, the walls jagged and unforgiving, barely any level of actual technology visible except for a long since deactivated lighting system. The tunnel was not used often in the past, but rather it was restricted due to safety concerns and the fact that it was utterly pointless, as nothing but more abandoned relics awaited on the other end. Despite this, however, the ancient road was covered with the signs of travel, the very ground cracked by the stress of what had passed through. No doubt it had been the daemon forces.
The stale air was cut by numerous beams of light, the sounds of vehicles echoing down the lonely passage. From the gloom came a large convoy of allied military machinery from both General Winters’ Atlantean force and Commander Ivankov’s division, the units stretched out in a compact column as they cautiously proceeded forward.
At the forefront of the column was a black armored SUV, a large, multi-barreled cannon on its roof. Within this heavily fortified vehicle sat two humans and two fairies. In the front, Commander Ivankov had the wheel, the kleptomaniac dwarf Mulch sitting next to him, an overly excited look on his face. An impassive Butler took up the entire middle row of seats, his massive form squeezed in by some sort of a magic trick. In the back, an egregiously bored looking Holly Short resided, who was trying to ameliorate such boredom by cleaning her Neutrino for the tenth time.
Upon finishing the maintenance procedure yet again, Holly called to the front. “Mulch, do you have any idea where you’re going?”
The dwarf, who was rummaging through the glove box, turned back to face the others, motioning to his ubiquitous facial hair. “Always trust the beard kids.”
When Mulch had stated that he knew where to find the source of the attacks, almost everyone thought he was just crazy. However, they were at a loss as to where to look, so were forced by default into accepting the dwarf’s help. Not that it was free, of course. Mulch had asked for the usual over the top things, though he started by demanding for everyone to forget the stash of stolen goods he had compiled in the sewers, thus giving him a clean record again. Most of the LEP officers, including Trouble, would rather eat troll droppings than give the dwarf a medal, his own statue in Haven, a hundred gold bars, diplomatic immunity, a lifetime supply of every type of food, and his own reality show. But they grudgingly acquiesced, knowing that they didn’t have to keep their end of the bargain so long as the dwarf broke the law after things were resolved, which they knew he would.
Mulch put his hairy feet upon the dashboard, pointing with his toe towards a tunnel that branched off from the one they were in. “The beard says that way!” He stated happily, absorbed in his own sense of inviolability. “I’m really starting to like this. It’s like having my own Russian chauffeur, except it includes a personal army. Just think: Diggum’s division! Nice ring to it.”
Ivankov turned the wheel, an unamused look on the middle aged man’s face. Clearly everyone was getting tired of the dwarf’s naturally mind-exploding behavior.
The convoy turned into the larger passage, their lights shining upon the dark surfaces, seeking to illuminate any sort of hiding spot. As they pressed onward into the new tunnel, Foaly came in on the comm link.
“My sensors are completely blind from this point out, though I can still manage to communicate sufficiently. I’m sorry to say, but I won’t be able to help you much on this one, not unless I put up a brand new sensor grid, which would take a while given my resources are spread too thin as it is…”
“It’s alright Foaly.” Holly assured, absentmindedly testing the trigger pull on her pistol. “We’ll be just fine. All of this will be wrapped up in no time.”
“That’s great to hear and all, but please, be careful. If Opal is truly the one behind this, there’s no telling what awaits you.” Foaly pleaded, already worried for Holly’s safety.
“If that’s the case, then we’ll end her, once and for all.” Butler rumbled, checking the advanced human combat attire that he had been given before they had moved out.
“And once we get Artemis back, there will be no stopping us.” Holly added.
“I hope so.” Foaly said, not so sure himself.
Farther down the tunnel, a daemon soldier observed the approaching force through a set of high powered visual scanners, seeming to be waiting for something. It checked a data pad, on which were marked numerous red symbols, as well as the advancing convoy. It stood there patiently, watching as the LEP and human units got closer to the red markers.
The force proceeded unbeknownst into the red lines, crossing the first set of markers without noticing a thing.
A sudden flicker of activity flitted across the shadows deeper in the tunnel, eliciting Borislav’s attention. He signaled for the convoy to halt, looking intently toward the distance.
“What is it?” Holly called from the back, unable to see from behind the mountain of a bodyguard.
“Something’s not right.” He said uneasily.
He took out a pair of thermal scanners, putting them to his eyes as he zoomed in on where he thought he’d seen something. Sure enough, the silhouette of a daemon scout was standing several hundred meters away, unmoving.
As the man communicated the threat with the units under his command, the daemon in question brought up its data pad again, this time with a smaller device in its other hand. It was a detonator. It knew that it had been exposed, so now it did the only thing it was programmed to do; eliminate the threat. Without any level of emotion, the daemon pressed the detonator, not caring that it too would be caught in the resulting destruction.
A split second later, a massive explosion filled the air above the leading SUV, dislodging the entire ceiling. Borilsav quickly pushed the vehicle forward, dodging a large chunk of stone, trapping them on the other side, cut off from the main convoy, which had quickly reversed out of harm’s way.
“I guess we are on the right track then!” Holly yelled above the sounds of falling bedrock.
“Let’s hope that was the only charge they planted. If this entire tunnel goes down it will take days to clear out and re-stabilize.” Ivankov stated. Another explosive charge went off, followed by another, and another. “I spoke too soon…” The man said, flooring the accelerator as hundreds of tonnes of stone came down around them.
“They’ve rigged the entire tunnel, we’ve got no choice but to go forward. Hold on!” The man said as he gripped the wheel tightly.
The souped-up vehicle blasted forward, its miniature fusion reactor sending to from zero to a hundred in one second. As they moved forward at neck breaking speeds, dozens demolition charges went off above them, their gigantic explosions following them persistently as they tried to outrun the wave of falling rock. The occupants held onto whatever they could as they shot down the tunnel, pieces of stone bouncing off of he reinforced glass as they weaved in between falling stalactites, their time sharpened ends piercing the ground around them like super sized knives.
“Can this thing go any faster!” Holly yelled, looking out the back window at the crushing demise that was closing in. In response, Ivankov switched the vehicle into overdrive, eliciting another jolt of acceleration that pressed everyone abruptly into their seats.
As they began to put distance between themselves and the ruin behind them, a string of more charges went off in front, creating a deluge of collapsing stone and supports. They were now caught, literally, between a rock and a hard place.
Mulch, who was indeed quite terrified, pointed at the ever growing barrier before them. “We’re going through that!?”
Borislav clutched the wheel tightly, gritting his teeth. “Either that or we die here, your choice.”
Mulch shut up, instead opting to hide in the foot space below the seat.
As they got closer and closer to the crumbling section of tunnel, the space between two massive pieces of falling bedrock got smaller, an ever decreasing gap that was their only hope for escape. The advanced vehicle was pushed forward, its speed now reaching over three hundred miles an hour, maxing out its RPM dial. “Here we go!” The driver said, now only a dozen meters from the opening, which seemed too small for the vehicle to pass through. With a loud crash, the SUV blasted into the small opening, the enclosing stone pressing its sides as it shot through, making an ear splitting sound as it scraped against the vehicle. Hundreds of smaller rocks and chunks of dirt pummeled the roof like a hail storm on steroids, numerous dents forming in the armored surface as dense rock dropped on it from hundreds of feet above. It was a horrendous cacophony, as though they were inside a steel drum that was being hit by a hundred clubs at once.
All of the sudden, they cleared the deadly stone hurricane, emerging into a massive chamber. Behind them, the giant chunks of stone came together, creating a massive explosion of debris. Even more sections of the tunnel fell after, the remaining explosives being set off in an attempt to stop the intruders, who were already through. As the last demolition charges went off, an enormous cloud of dust and rock fragments blew out of the destroyed tunnel, blasting by them with almost enough force to flip the vehicle over.
Borislav released the wheel, sitting back in his seat with a sense of great relief. Everyone else was equally as relieved, their pulses ramped up from the deadly ride.
“That was too close.” Ivankov breathed. “Maybe I’m getting too old for this.”
Butler shook his head. “You’re one to talk, I’ve got seniority here.”
“Point taken.” The man said thoughtfully.
As the clouds of smoke and dust began to clear, the enormous cavern that they were now in began to take shape, and a familiar one at that. Through the dust appeared the looming structures that had long since been left to crumble, their battered surfaces covered with holes and detritus. They were at the eleven wonders of the world.
Holly looked through the front window, taking in the sight with a look of surprise. It had been years since she’d seen this place, the memories of the last time flooding into her head. Those years ago, Artemis and her had been cast together against a common foe, the same one that they may be facing now. Her attention turned to the temple of Artemis, the very same building on which they had almost been disemboweled by hordes of angry trolls, saved at the last moment. It was a bizarre reunion between them and the place in which Opal had left them to die, one that bore the same sour taste of the last time, the taste that conflict and death concocted.
“I never thought I’d see this dung hole again.” Holly said to herself as she observed their surroundings, searching for any signs of hostiles soldiers.
“Indeed.” Butler said deeply, rather displeased with the abysmal mess that was before him.
Mulch pulled himself up from the floor space, absentmindedly taking a bug from his beard and popping it into his mouth. Upon seeing the dead amusement park, he grinned childishly. “You see fellas! Just like old times!”
Holly groaned, very much despising the painful experiences which the old times entailed.
As they looked around, they noticed a bizarre lack of enraged trolls, though it was obvious that they had been eliminated by the enemy forces. An extremely worried voice cut in via their communicators.
“Is everyone alright?” Foaly asked desperately.
“We’re fine Foaly.” Holly assured. “We managed to get through to the other side of the passageway, we almost didn’t make it.”
The centaur let out an audible sigh. “Thank the gods. When those charges went off I feared for the worst.”
Holly smiled at her friend’s worry, again glad that he was unharmed by the battle. “Don’t you worry, it will take a lot more than what they can dish out to stop us. What’s the status on the rest of the convoy?”
Foaly didn’t speak for a second as he checked another screen. “The explosives were situated within that section of the tunnel only. The rest of the force made it out just fine. The problem is that they’re completely cut off from being able to assist you, and even with our excavation tech it may take days to make that passage usable again.”
“So there’s no other way in?” Ivankov asked. He was not happy with being cut off, but the news that his men were alright was of much greater importance to him, thus he was in a good mood.
“None whatsoever.” Foaly said apprehensively. “That area was scheduled to be completely recycled, so it was not of great importance to make any more ways in. Any other entrances that may have been there a few years ago have been sealed off.”
Butler cleared his throat. “Then we will go on ahead. We cannot wait for the way to be cleared, as that would only give the enemy more time to act.”
“Agreed.” Ivankov said. “We will see what we can find.”
Foaly didn’t like the prospect of them going on their own, but then again he agreed with their thinking. If it was Opal pulling the strings, then even a few extra hours of delay could spell disaster, let alone a few days. “Alright.” He finally said. “Just be careful.”
Once the centaur left to comm link, the group resumed their reconnaissance of the region, though they remained inside the vehicle should anything suddenly go wrong. From what they could see, the area was deserted, no a single movement visible throughout the ruined landscape. It was quiet, though not the sort that brought comfort or ease. It was the silence that one felt before a storm, a small respite preceding a great cataclysm. They were being watched.
Borislav drummed his fingers apprehensively on the steering wheel, gazing seriously at the gloomy structures before them, their large forms creating a graveyard of forgotten constructs. After a moment he stopped, his demeanor reverting back to the usual professional form.
“Butler, take the turret.” He said placidly, now utterly focused and calm with the task at hand.
“With pleasure.” The bodyguard said, happy to be finished sitting around. He fluidly opened the top hatch of the SUV, managing to fit through the opening. He much more preferred being out there than within the enclosed space. He was much more exposed, but the combined protection of being Butler and the advanced combat armor that he’d been given made it relatively safe for the monstrous human. The main gun was still intact, its well crafted surface covered with scratches a dents, but otherwise functional. He looked over the large, rapid fire pulse gun appreciatively, familiarizing himself with the controls. Within ten seconds he’d mastered the weapon, without even having to fire it.
“Ready.” Butler called into the vehicle, his body preparing itself for conflict. He couldn’t help but feel a sense of anticipation. He was going to bring the fight to them, and bring Artemis back. There was nothing he wanted more than that.
Borislav nodded, putting the vehicle into drive. “Keep your eye’s pealed, we’re going in.” He said as he pressed the accelerator, taking the armored SUV towards the looming skeletons of the wonders. They cautiously closed the distance between themselves and the dilapidated tourist attraction, passing under the rusted archway that signaled their entry into the depressing ruins. The ground was trampled down completely, its surface clearly compressed by immeasurable footsteps. Yet, despite the obvious passage of the daemon army, they couldn’t see anything by the dead structures around them.
Shadows dominated the street on which they drove, the space between the massive buildings completely shrouded in darkness. Butler kept his fingers on the trigger, the powerful cannon pointed at the deceiving shadows as he looked about vigilantly, his training kicking in as he regarded the urban environment with a tactical eye. The vehicle slowed to a crawl as they reached the center of the complex, the reconstruction of the Temple of Artemis towering above them. On the ground before it were the dreadfully ruined forms of the previously automated human mannikins. Their outer bodies were almost completely worn off, leaving the rusted old machinery showing, as though they were rotting away, their bones laid bare by the passage of time. As they passed the bizarre display, they noticed a large pile of something within one of the gaps between the structures. Butler shined the turret mounted light upon the unknown material, illuminating the rotting corpses of over two dozen trolls. Their bodies were riddled with the marks of heavy weaponry, gaping holes the size of basket balls torn through their thick flesh. It was a horrid sight, not because they were dead, but because they had been wiped out with such ease and ferocity, stacked carelessly like a pile of dolls. It didn’t ease their tensions whatsoever, rather it amplified them to even higher levels. They were not alone.
Suddenly, Borislav stopped the vehicle, looking intently at somewhere in front of them, a look of slight dismay on his face. “It’s a trap…дерьмо!”
To answer the man’s statement, a flurry of bullets rained down on the vehicle. From above them, upon the large buildings, emerged several dozen daemon infantry, their weapons blazing as they fired down on the intruders with deadly intent. From behind the imposing bulk of the temple came the obvious form of a gunship, its engines howling devilishly as it approached them. As Borislav floored it yet again, Butler responded with the pulse cannon, sending a solid stream of high powered energy rounds into the assaulting daemons, sending many of them tumbling off of the ruined structures.
Holly sat impatiently in the back seat, itching to get into the fight as she drummed her fingers agitatedly on her rifle. She hated sitting around, in the middle of a high speed gun fight, doing nothing but keeping the seat warm. As the vehicle sped through the complex, weaving between ruined kiosks and piles of rubble, a loud boom resounded from behind them. Holly looked out the back window, ducking immediately as a 30mm cannon round rammed the rear of the SUV. The reinforced glass stopped it, but was rendered useless at the same time, the large shell embedded in it. Holly observed the window, noting its weakness, before smashing it open with the butt of her rifle, sending the already compromised pane of glass tumbling to the earth. With a look of determination, she aimed her weapon from the opening, unleashing a steady stream of pulse rounds with perfect precision. She aimed at a group of daemon soldiers as they fired from atop the half destroyed foundation of one of the great pyramids, sending them rolling down the side with a single shot each.
As they powered around the area, dodging heavy ordnance from the pursuing gunship, Butler ducked down from the turret, narrowly missing an encounter with a missile as it flew over, exploding against a structure in front of them.
“It’s too hot out there, we need to change tactics.” The bodyguard rumbled.
“Quite obviously yes!” Borislav said loudly above the continuous blasting from Holly’s rifle.
As they made their way to turn into a narrow alleyway, a missile hit right below them, sending the armored SUV flying through the air. When it landed, it rolled over violently several times before becoming upright, lodging itself in a ditch. Somehow, the turret was still in one piece.
Thanks to the reinforced frame and blast resistance of the vehicle, everyone was alive, though severely disoriented by the sudden crash. It took them a few seconds to come to, rubbing their heads as they regained their composure, everyone except Mulch. The dwarf was huddled in the front seat, holding his gut, a pained look on his face.
“You alright?” Ivankov asked, noting Mulch’s obvious discomfort.
“Perfectly.” The dwarf said with a strained voice. “Been holding this gas for too long.”
Butler frowned at the mention of gas, eying the door as he automatically prepared for a quick exit should the dwarf let loose.
“We’ve got bigger problems than gas!” Holly yelled from the rear, peaking out the window.
Everyone else turned their attention to the back, and upon noticing what was behind them, quickly ducked as low as they could. Approaching the rear end of the armored SUV were over two dozen heavily armed daemons, as well as a gunship farther back. They held their fire for some reason, though looked more than ready to light the vehicle up. Another gunship appeared in front to them, its deadly form closing in slowly, tauntingly.
“We’re surrounded!” Holly said with a hushed tone, trying to be as quiet as possible, hoping that the enemy assumed that the crash had killed them.
Mulch groaned. “I’ve gotta go! It’s too much to hold!” The dwarf clutched his belly, rolling on the floor in agony as he attempted to hold the deadly gas at bay. After a moment, the dwarf clued into what was going on. Despite his obvious pain, a sly grin grossed his face. “Help me to the back.”
Butler put it together immediately, a grin crossing his face as well. “Alright, Mr. Diggums.”
The bodyguard lifted the kleptomaniac dwarf to the back seat, attempting to maintain a low profile, which was virtually impossible, like a whale trying to hide behind a soda machine. Mulch scooted himself past Holly, pulling down the back seat in a hurried fashion, no doubt close to letting loose. The daemons were now only ten yards away, their guns raised as they closed in on the beat up SUV. The gunships hovered above, waiting for any sign of life.
Mulch positioned himself in the rear of the vehicle, making sure to unbutton his bum flap. “Hey, Russian guy, pop the trunk will ya?”
Borislav raised an eyebrow, but nonetheless pressed the trunk’s opening control.
The daemon platoon stopped abruptly as the trunk slowly opened, its bent up form making a high pitched squeaking sound as it came up. As the door rose, the daemons raised their weapons, ready to shoot anything that was within the vehicle. But as they began to see what awaited them, they tilted their heads in confusion, their artificial minds not comprehending what they were seeing. Before them was a pair a massive, pearly white butt cheeks, a hairy face looking from behind them with a very wide grin.
“Special delivery from your favorite dwarf, Mulch Diggums!” Mulch yelled comically, eliciting even more confusion from the daemons, who didn’t register the profane dwarf as a threat, but rather an egregious abnormality. Big mistake.
With a laugh, the dwarf let loose, unleashing hell upon the daemons. The air was cut by the deafening sound of flatulence as a shock wave of gas exploded from the dwarf, ramming into the two dozen daemons with enough force to crush a tank. The infantry were sent flying into the air at a speed of over one hundred kilometers an hour, their flailing forms firing their guns sporadically as they careened through the sky. The gunship behind them was also pushed back by the blast, though only slightly. However, this changed when a dozen of the daemons rammed right into it, their armored bodies punching through the ship’s hull with a sickening crunch. The ship, along with the rest of the daemons, were sent flying into the ruins of the pyramid, hitting it with such force that it caused for the structure to collapse in on itself, the gunship exploding along with it in a shower of fire and dust.
Mulch wasn’t done yet. His gases still exploded from his rear, causing for the SUV to be literally launched from the ditch in which it was stuck, sending it flying into the air like a rocket. Everyone held on for their dear lives as they were propelled towards the second gunship. Butler, who was the only one with enough bulk to stay secure without using his hands, pulled himself up into the still operational turret, knowing exactly what to do. As the flying SUV rocketed towards the gunship, which was finally warming up its chain guns, Butler opened up with the pulse cannon, cutting into the ship with a deadly storm of energy bursts. The pulse rounds blew through the canopy of the craft, killing the pilot as well as nearly cutting the ship in half. As they flew past it, the now out of control gunship exploded in mid air, creating a ball of fire behind the now falling vehicle, making it look like the most bizarre stunt job in history.
With a crash, the SUV landed on the solid earth, its advanced suspension absorbing most of the shock, piles of dust and debris flying around it as it plowed through a pile of garbage. After a few seconds of uncontrolled movement, the flatulence stopped, allowing for Borislav to slam on the brakes, bringing the severely damaged vehicle to a halt.
For a moment nobody moved, the sheer ridiculousness of what had just transpired simply overwhelming them. After a second, Mulch came back from the rear, buttoning up his bum flap. “And that is why I should have my own television show.” He said with a gleeful grin on his face.
Everyone else looked at him with complete awe, never before having seen such pure militarized use of flatulence. After a few seconds, Holly snapped out of the shock, a large grin replacing the confused look on her face. She punched the dwarf on the shoulder. “That was awesome.”
Butler nodded in consensus, his fears of the dwarf’s gas now multiplied after what he’d just seen. Nonetheless, he was glad Mulch was with them. You never know when you’ll need a kleptomaniac dwarf with explosive gas.
Borislav chuckled deeply, utterly surprised by the dwarf’s actions, and extremely pleased with the results. “That’s got to be some sort of a record, I think we just beat Evil Kenevil’s score by ten and a half buses.”
“That’s nothing.” Mulch said loftily. “One time I powered an old shuttle with my wind, flew two miles in it before crashing into a B’wa Kel bar. They weren’t very happy with that.” The dwarf laughed at the memory.
Everyone allowed themselves a brief moment of relief, no a single sign of additional daemons visible. But such relaxation was a luxury they could not afford. Time waited for no one, and they had very little of it.
Borislav examined the vehicle, testing the accelerator. The vehicle didn’t even make a sound. After one more try, the man sat back. “This vehicle is done for. We’ll have to continue by foot.”
Holly frowned. “The question is where.”
“We’ll figure that out soon enough. For now, let’s just get out of here. The ruckus that we’ve just made will surely draw in more of them.” Butler stated, readying his pulse rifle.
Butler put his hand on the door latch, pulling it moderately to open the side door. It didn’t budge. The vehicle’s exterior had been twisted around, making the door inoperable. The man shrugged, kicking the door right off of the vehicle, sending it flying a dozen yards. The others got out with little incident, not having to further deface the already broken SUV. They swiftly put some distance between themselves and the vehicle, moving to a shadowed position in the alleyway between two of the large structures. They stopped once they reached a series of old dumpsters, using their large metal forms as cover.
“So,” Holly addressed. “What’s the plan?”
Ivankov shrugged. “We know that they originated from this area, but we haven’t seen anything but the small patrol we encountered.”
Butler peered across the street, seeing nothing but deceased daemons and empty gloom. He had his weapon ready, not for a second letting his guard down. For a moment the man listened, his senses tingling as he thought he felt something in the air.
Holly noticed the bodyguard’s demeanor. “What is it Butler?” She asked, looking curiously into the streets as well.
“Wait.” He said. “Something’s coming.”
Before they could inquire as to what specifically that something was, a loud screech split the silence, followed by the unmistakable sound of massive gears turning. They cautiously peered out from their position to find the source of the sudden noise, making sure to keep a low profile.
In the middle of the street, spanning about a hundred feet across, was a massive doorway opening in the ground. Its thick blast doors slowly slid into hidden chambers as a large ramp became visible, its steady decline leading into the darkness below. From the shadowy gloom within the hidden tunnel came the obvious cry of more gunships, as well as numerous footfalls. The group quickly hid behind their cover once again, right as a large force poured from the passageway. As they came out, they turned their attention to the crashed SUV in the middle of the road, aiming their weapons automatically. With a loud series of explosions and gunshots, the daemon infantry and gunships lit up the already ruined vehicle, reducing it to ashes in a matter of seconds.
Mulch sneaked a peek. “Bingo!” He said to himself.
The enemy had been right under their feet the entire time, located in an area just below the eleven wonders, linked by the hidden but now visible passageway. It was a stroke of fortune that the daemons had chosen to emerge rather than wait out the threat, which would have made things a lot more difficult for the foursome. Obviously they couldn’t tolerate any sort of vexation without blowing it to smithereens and then some.
As the enemy units studied the remains of the SUV, searching for any signs of bodies, several detachments spread out into patrols, their focus now on finding the missing occupants of the vehicle. The foursome pressed themselves against the stone wall, the rusting old dumpster the only thing between then and discovery, as an infantry patrol stalked past the alleyway. The sounds of their heavy footfalls echoed down the narrow passage, bouncing off of the walls as it twisted into a disorienting noise. As the last of the heavily armed soldiers passed their refuge, they waited for an additional minute before making any movements, patience becoming their greatest ally against the ever rising odds.
After a long moment of complete silence, Mulch let out a quiet sigh. “Well.” He whispered. “What’s on the itinerary now, maybe we can get some food or something.”
Holly shook her head. “Sorry Mulch, but we can’t afford to get sidetracked now. We have to figure out a way into whatever is below us.”
As the Dwarf pouted childishly, Butler peered around the corner, observing the entrance that as now filling the street. There were well over fifty daemons guarding the way in, as well as several gunships hovering around the perimeter. They were obviously not taking any chances, the integrity of the area below of utmost importance. The bodyguard frowned, seeing that a direct approach was suicide.
He looked back to the others. “There’s no way we’re getting in the front door.”
Ivankov looked to the sky as a gunship flew over. “Perhaps a distraction will suffice.”
“Maybe.” Butler said, still thinking. “But with the magnitude of their current forces, a diversion could prove disastrous. There’s no telling how many more of them are waiting below. If we make any chaos up here, reinforcements may arrive before we can get inside. And even if we did, they’d be expecting something.”
Mulch raised his hand. “How about we just use the back door?” He grinned.
“There’s only one way in, Mulch.” Holly deadpanned.
“I know.” The dwarf said. “But making back doors is one of my specialties.”
Butler nodded. “So you think that you can dig a tunnel that will allow us access.” The man stated.
“Absolutely.” Mulch said pridefully. “It just so happens that I was digging in these parts a few decades ago, when I robbed Haven’s museums of some shiny artifacts.”
Holly gave him a very unamused look. “Really?”
The dwarf grinned widely. “Of course! But let’s put my past aside. I do recall there being a nice vein of clay right under this area. It should give me enough space to navigate towards the facility below, probably to a ventilation shaft, or the kitchen…If they have one…”
Borislav nodded in approval. “Sounds better than stirring up this beehive with a diversion. How soon can you get us through?”
Mulch sniffed the air, his beard quivering with a life of its own as it sought out something. After a moment he looked down the opposite end of the alleyway. “This way! There should be a perfect spot just up here.”
Everyone cautiously followed the dwarf, keeping their figures as low a possible. In only a few dozen paces, Mulch stopped, brushing debris and rubble from the earth. Sure enough, an opening had formed in between two broken sections of the stone surface revealing a damp layer of clay. The dwarf sniffed the earth, rubbing his hands together. “Mmmm, this smells good.”
Without a moment’s hesitation, Mulch unhinged his jaw and subsequently dove into the ground, disappearing amidst a small shower of dirt, leaving a wide hole behind him. The three others looked uncertainly at the dark tunnel as the sounds of digging faded away.
“Interesting character that one.” Ivankov stated absentmindedly, keeping his eye on the area around them.
“You have no idea.” Holly replied, a slight grin on her face.
After a few minutes of tense waiting, the sounds of movement echoed up the shaft. Mulch popped out of the hole, his face covered with dirt, and his massive grin filled with clay.
“Well kids, what are you waiting for?” He said, waving his hands for them to enter the newly constructed tunnel.
“Did you find what you were looking for?” Holly asked, holstering her weapon as she prepared to crawl through the muddy passageway.
Mulch frowned genuinely. “No, I failed to find anything that resembled a kitchen. I did, however, locate a ventilation shaft that connects to the complex below. I’ve already breached its wall with some of my custom concoction, so it’s clear sailing!”
“Good, then let’s this over with.” Holly stated as she walked up to the tunnel. Mulch disappeared back into his creation as the others squeezed into the passage, not bothering to even try and keep their gear from getting dirty. When one has anything to do with Mulch Diggums, staying clean is an impossibility. As the last of them vanished into the earth, the hole was sealed, leaving not a single trace that they had been there. Just as they did this, a daemon patrol turned down the alley, walking over the dig site without a single clue that they were right on top of their quarry.
The vast chamber stretched out for hundreds of feet, its ends disappearing in the red clouds and black mist that filled the air, the opposing colors mixing together into a dreadful texture. Loathsome sounds echoed throughout the room, distorted and twisted around into an even more bizarre noise, one that was filled with every dark emotion in the universe. It was as though the very fabric of reality was being turned on its head, as though by entering the room one entered Hades itself, a land of the evil dead. An iron gate at the far end swung open silently, as though the nefarious noise within was not to be disturbed. From the dark halls beyond, a shadowed figure walked in, the air around it congealing into tendrils of crimson, dark magic emanating from the being like heat from a fire. Opal Koboi paid no attention to the maddening noise, which to her was akin to a song, a song that sung of the cruel demise of her foes.
With a cool demeanor, the pixie walked to the center of the room, her footsteps making more sound than they logically should have, as though she were many times her actual size. In the middle of the chamber was an elevated pedestal made of red tinted stone. Upon it was a sealed scroll tube, its aged surface glowing faintly, pulsing with a life of its own. Within the archaic case were even more archaic manuscripts, on them the very arcane spells and dark magic that she possessed now. When she reached the pedestal, she brushed aside an invisible barrier, stepping up to the artifact with a hungry look in her eyes.
Such power! She thought, her eyes glowing hauntingly. Such wonderful power that is now mine!
She let her hands hover over the scroll case, feeling the pure imperium that gushed from the magical artifacts that were within, a grin growing on her nefarious features.
And this is but a taste of that which is to come! Once I find the gateway, this power that I have now will be but a trivial drop within a sea of fire! Nothing, not those vexing fairies, or those idiot humans, nor Fowl’s intellect will be able to stand in my way!
Opal grinned even wider as her own magic linked with that of the scrolls, her twisted senses screaming with joy as they felt the unbridled power that flowed freely, an intoxicating strength that would overpower the minds of lesser beings. But she was anything but lesser. No. She thought. In her mind she was the pinnacle of existence, the most powerful being on the earth, a monument to supremacy and devastation, the very definition of invincibility.
She cast her consciousness into the metaphysical realm around her, exploring the intricacies of the magical masterpiece that was before her, viewing its structure and flow, trying to unlock that which it still hid from her.
It was a daunting task, even for her, to unravel the greatest secret that the manuscripts held. But it was only a question of time. With her immortality she had all the time in the world, whilst her enemies were limited by the biological constraints of life.
She let herself drift in the firestorm of magical flow around her, her attention falling to the forms that were imprisoned in her facility. She took great pleasure to watch the defeated warlocks in their futile struggle to escape from the magical chains that bound them, caught in an eternal cycle of magical channeling. She loved to see these powerful foes reduced to simple tools for her nefarious use, their enormous pride trampled on by falling to such a degrading level of existence. It made her laugh inside.
But what made her truly leap for joy was seeing Artemis, that pathetic mud boy, wallowing in filth and decay, locked away in the depths of her abode. Her wicked heart sang with hate fueled excitement every time it felt him tremble from cold and dehydration. Her mind swam with pleasure when it felt his negative emotions escape his disciplined mind. It was her greatest enjoyment to see him in such a low position, and her senses tingled at the prospect of dragging his suffering into the rest of his life. Oh how delicious it tasted, how sweet an appetizer for the feast that was yet to come!
Opal reluctantly drew herself from her deadly fantasizing, bringing herself back into the physical realm, back to the dreadful chamber in which she stood. There was much work to be done before her final move could be made, she could envision the demise of the mud boy later, when all of his allies have been butchered. She looked at the artifact once more, feeling its power.
“I will uncover your secrets soon enough.” She said confidently. “For now, I will make the necessary preparations.”
She turned around, towards the large doorway. With a casual, self assured gait, the pixie stepped off of the elevated section of the floor, passing through the magical barrier that surrounded the manuscripts. The safeguards closed behind her, forming a deadly wall of magic that shimmered dangerously.
As the air sung with darkness, Opal passed through the doorway, closing it behind her with her magic. The thick gate sealed itself, creating a formidable barrier that made entering an impossibility. With a slight grin, Opal strode down the hall, swirls of magic twisting faintly in the air around her.
Today is going to be a wonderful day. The evil pixie thought maniacally as she went down the passage, disappearing in the thick darkness, the sound of her footfalls echoing off of the jagged tunnel walls as they mixed with the muffled howls from within the room.
Somewhere Underneath the Eleven Wonders
The air was thick and humid as the four beings crawled through the ventilation shaft, the faint smell of decay wafting around them, taunting them with its elusive and abysmal stench. Whilst the two humans and one elf came up behind, Mulch Diggums peered through the grate that was at the end of the tunnel, sniffing the air as his beard felt for vibrations and activity, seeking out movement like radar. After a moment, the dwarf motioned to those behind him, giving them the all clear. They purposefully avoided verbal communication, knowing that speech would reverberate throughout the tunnel, possibly alerting the enemy of their presence. As they crouched around the still closed grate, Mulch fumbled with the metal barrier, removing it silently with his skilled hands.
One by one, they jumped from the open shaft, landing silently upon the solid stone floor. They had their weapons raised, ready should any hostiles appear, but there were none close to them. The room that they had entered was large, a vaulting ceiling disappearing high above in the gloom. Hundreds of massive cargo containers filled the space, their looming forms stacked high on various racks, an intricate lift system moving them about with ease. The four of them fanned out quietly, forming a wedge as they passed through the storage room. Some of the containers were open, revealing everything from weapons and ammunition, to armor plating and raw materials.
As they neared the other end of the room, they spotted a large blast door, its imposing form silent and dark. Holly motioned for everyone to form up on either side of the barrier as she reviewed the locking mechanism. It was complex, but still no match for her omni-tool, which she promptly put to the control panel. In a matter of seconds, the blast door was unlocked, but Holly refrained from opening it. Instead she looked to the others, who nodded their heads. They were ready.
Holly looked back to the panel, her hand hovering close to the open command. There was no telling what was on the other side of that door, and the possibilities were colossal. Nonetheless, they had no other option. She readied her pulse rifle in one hand, pressing the control mechanism simultaneously with the other.
Without a sound the large portal slid open, artificial light spilling in from the area beyond. Along with the illumination came the loud choir of industrial noise, the unmistakable sounds of heavy machinery and lifts rising increasingly as the door opened wider and wider. The air that rushed through was warm, no doubt heated by the activity within.
The three soldiers swept around the corner, entering the expansive chamber efficiently, their firearms pointed purposefully at the space beyond. Mulch came up behind, not all too willing to be the first to go in. They didn’t stop once they arrived in the room, rather they moved stealthily to a pile of crates that was stacked before them, crouching behind them as they peered over the massive area the stretched for hundreds of meters.
The chamber was gigantic, so much so that it made one wonder how it was not noticed before. Within were hundreds of machines, mostly automated cranes and conveyer belts, the whirr of activity echoing endlessly as the scene played before them. Running from one end of the chamber to the endless tunnel beyond were over three dozen gigantic magna-tracks, upon them even larger cargo trains, their long forms stretching over a mile each. The transport cars on the tracks were over a hundred feet high, and easily twice as wide, making their cargo capacity extremely volumous.
With the loud noises that filled the area, Holly spoke, though still in hushed tones. “So this is how they got an entire army into Haven. It was right under our noses the entire time!”
Butler observed the trains. “Indeed. Each of those transports could probably carry thousands of soldiers, and hundreds of vehicles.”
It was a magnificent example of pure mechanized perfection, but such made it even more imposing. Whatever was going on, it was bigger than they thought. If their foe had enough resources and the capability to construct such a supply system without being noticed, then there was no telling what else it was capable of. One thing was for sure, the sheer size and ingenuity of the facility before them was easily within Opal Koboi’s realm of ability. But the certainty of her involvement was still not one hundred percent.
Ivankov checked his rifle. “So.” He whispered. “How exactly are we going to go about this? Shall we jack a train? It is clear that the source of the attacks is at the other end of those tracks…”
Butler observed the region. There were easily hundreds of daemons patrolling the chamber, along with a few dozen armored vehicles near the ramp that went above ground. Such a force was far too large for them to take on alone.
The bodyguard looked back to the others. “It’s far too well guarded for us to attempt anything risky. If we’re going to get to where those transports are from, we will have to covertly hitch a ride on one of them.”
Holly nodded. “Alright. The problem is whether or not any of those transports are going back anytime soon.”
“Umm, I think I know which one is going.” Mulch whispered, pointing his think fingers towards the nearest train. The transport in question was virtually empty, its large doors open with nothing beyond them. What made it apparent that it was about to move was the series of signal lights above each track. All of the others were red, indicating that they were not operational. The one before them was green.
“Oh.” Holly said quietly, a slightly embarrassed tone in her voice. “How did I not see that?”
“Cause I’m awesome.” Mulch stated enthusiastically, pointing to himself with a wide grin.
Butler captured everyone’s attention with his deep, commanding voice. “We don’t have much time until it departs.” He said. “If we’re going to do this, we’ll have to do so now.”
Borislav nodded. “Then let’s board that train.”
Together, moving as surreptitiously as possible, the four beings moved deeper into the room, weaving their way in between the numerous cargo containers and inactive vehicles, the towering transport looming before them as they approached it.
Haven City – Ops Booth
Foaly worked tiredly at his command console, his eyes drooping from nonstop effort. Behind him, Commander Trouble Kelp watched the monitors, a serious look on his face.
“What’s the word on Holly and the others?” Kelp asked, a slight bit of worry in his voice.
Foaly didn’t look very happy at all. He turned to Trouble, an embarrassed look on his face. “I’ve lost all signals from them. The good news it that it is due to an immense amount of interference, so they are probably doing fine…”
“Let’s hope that’s the case.” Trouble stated. He looked to the battle map on a screen above. Haven was theirs, but their link to Holly was cut by the collapsed tunnel. Kelp frowned as he thought of the massive obstruction that was now keeping them from assisting her.
“What is the status on the blocked tunnel?” The elf asked.
Foaly grimaced as he read out the reports. “We’re currently assessing the scale of the collapse. We’ve contracted a group of dwarf miners to clear it out. They’re the best that one can get, but even with their level of skill, it may take days to make it safe to traverse again…”
“D’Arvit!” Trouble swore, glaring at the live feed of the wall of stone that blocked their advance. Here they were with a massive combined force of LEP soldiers and human operatives, utterly useless as only four of their own faced the enemy alone. It was bitter to swallow, but Holly and the others were on their own.
Below the Eleven Wonders – Supply Track Alpha
Two daemon soldiers stood stoically by the massive transport, their weapons held perfectly as they stood watch over the open door on one of the cars. One of them held an AA12 automatic shotgun, the other an upgraded softnose laser rifle. Despite their difference in armaments, they looked exactly the same, perfect replicas of a predetermined physical form. They didn’t sway of budge as they stood, ramrod straight, as silent sentries. They had no opinion or ability to feel pain or discomfort, nefarious intent being their only trait. They could stand there for years and not care.
A sharp ping sounded from behind a cargo container, eliciting the two daemon’s attention. With their weapons raised, they stepped away from their post, splitting up as they approached the container from both sides, their footfalls deceivingly soft as they sneaked towards the source of the suspicious noise. When they reached the edge of the container, they switched their guns to full auto, handling them with expert precision. As one, they burst around the corner, aimed at the space behind the large box. There was nothing but a message scratched on the stone floor.
In a pathetic show of gullible idiocy, the two daemons peered upward, pointing their guns to the air above. As they did so, two shadows jumped from the sides of the adjacent containers, vaulting towards them with blinding speed. Before the two guards could bring their weapons to face the charging threat, they each found themselves on the wrong end of a knife, their throats cut instantly by the razor sharp blades as strong hands grabbed them from behind. The daemons struggled frantically for a moment before slumping to the ground, dead.
Butler and Borislav stood over the deceased sentries, wiping their blades off casually.
“All clear.” Butler whispered, kicking the guns from the dead enemies’ hands out of habit, not taking any chances.
Mulch emerged from behind another container, Holly bringing up the rear as she watched for any threats from behind them. Under normal circumstances Holly would have felt sick at the sight of the slaughtered creatures. But these were anything but normal, and after everything she’d witnessed over the last few days, she could hardly care about the monsters that were bleeding out before her. She was numb to it all.
A loud beep sounded above the train that they were close to, followed by the loud noise of activating fusion engines.
“Let’s go!” Butler called, rushing stealthily towards the transport.
Everyone else followed cautiously, their guns held at the ready for any additional sentries. As they reached the train, which was starting to move, the large cargo doors began to close. Butler ran up to them, grabbing both sides of the barrier with his bare hands, grunting as he held them open
“Go!” He grunted, his arms strained from holding the mechanical doors at bay.
The others silently jumped into the cargo car, into the darkness that waited within. As the last of them got through, Butler let go of the door, jumping back into the transport as it slammed shut.
“That was close.” Holly stated with a smile, punching Butler hard on the shoulder as the man lay on the floor, his arms aching from exertion. The bodyguard grunted despite himself. Now he got why Artemis had sore shoulders whenever he hung out with the elf, she could dish out quite a punch.
The feeling of motion began to take effect as everyone huddled around the far corner of the train, staying away from the openings as they listened to the loud noise of air whooshing past the transport as it began to pick up speed.
“Now all we do is wait.” Borislav said quietly as he cleaned the blade of his combat knife, calm and composed.
“Let’s hope we’re not too late.” Holly said apprehensively, thinking again of Artemis. Every second they spend away from him was a second that Opal had to do as she pleased with the boy. Holly didn’t know whether or not the pixie was involved for sure, but her senses told her that she was, and such made her feel extremely worried for Artemis, who was completely alone with the crazy being. As she silently hoped for the friend’s safety, the transport rocketed down the enormous tunnel, the hot wind howling violently as the magna-train shot down the tracks at ludicrous speed, disappearing into the endless gloom of the passageway that seemed to stretch on for eternity.