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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 120: Hastings 133
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 119: Slade 88
A lot was done quickly; they wanted to bring down the Tokyo dome before Tubrok could organize new defenses. Lauren watched it happen; she didn't do much of it herself.
Derek and Bob poured over the papers anew, looking for any and all mechanical weaknesses, ways they could cripple the domes to prevent closing them, and also whether there were any ways the enemy could prevent them from opening, and what it would take to counter these. Discussion of motors and power supplies, gears and drives, computers and security systems filled their talk. None of it made much sense to Lauren.
Bethany and Shella worked on ways to improve their approach, so that they could arrive much nearer the control center and not have to enter from outside. The problem had always been that Bethany and Lauren needed a marker, something unique about the target location which they could use to assure that they were creating the image of that one place they sought, which could not be confused with any other. Shella had a solution to that which involved scrying the location and creating a mark that could be targeted. What made this most intriguing was that the mark could be invisible to those in the room and yet clearly seen from the mist. It would enable them to appear just outside the control room, cutting out much of the risk of the approach. Lauren, though, wasn't part of this, either.
She had spent her time in prayer and study, trying to ready her mind and her spirit for the challenge ahead. Something warned her that the battle was going to get tougher before it got easier, and she needed to do something she had not yet understood.
Now they were materializing in Tokyo, stepping from the mist to the reality of a dark chamber in the control center of the dome that covered it. The now five of them hoped they were ready for whatever lay ahead.
Bob checked the door to the office. After all, he said, one of the simplest things the enemy could do would be to install an alarm here, so that they would know when the room was breached. Nothing had been done, at least yet. He easily opened the door and walked into the room. The others followed, Shella and Bethany behind Bob, Lauren stepping in before Derek.
There was only one person, or creature, in this room this time, and before Lauren had entered the room the three in front of her had reduced it to the remains of something once human. They did a quick check of the room, secured the door, and set themselves up to watch. Derek sat behind the computer, and began his rituals. He was only at it a moment when he spoke.
"Not good," he said.
"What do you mean, not good?" Slade asked. "I don't want to hear that. You're supposed to say, 'all done'. What's not good?"
"Oh, nothing, really, I suppose. That is, I should have expected this. Most of these domes haven't been upgraded for a century. We picked Tokyo because they would have the technology here to get the word out about what we're doing, but I hadn't considered that they might have used some of that technology at some point to beef up the security on the dome."
"Does that mean we can't do it?" Lauren asked.
"Oh, no, I would never say I couldn't do it," Derek said. "I've hacked tougher. All I'm saying is that there's stuff here that's not in the book. This is going to be a tough nut to crack, and it may take me a while to do it. I just hope we're not discovered before I do."
"Well," Slade said, "don't waste time talking about it. Let's get that nut cracked."
They sat in silence for several minutes. Derek was the only one to make noise, as he talked to either himself or his machines as if he expected response.
"So," Slade said, "which should we do next?"
"Which city?" Lauren asked, and Slade nodded.
"Hush," Derek said. "I've almost got it."
Lauren smiled. "Let's just finish this one first. Then we'll worry about the next one."
A loud clank followed by a grinding and squealing noise told her that he had succeeded: the dome was slowly opening. She checked the ammo on her guns, and opened a clairvoyant link to the outside of the room. Bethany was enspelling the door, to provide those few extra minutes of hold on it. "Here they come," Lauren said, as she saw several workmen closing on the door. They would take some time to get through. Lauren wouldn't wait. She brought into existence her mental blade; she could hear Bethany pronouncing her own blade spell. She swung the blade at the creatures attempting to open the door.
Shella was apparently involved as well, looking into a mirror to see what was beyond the wall and pronouncing spells of some sort. Several of the workers in the rear of the group fell as the floor seemed to warp beneath them. Lauren could see this out of the corner of her remote eye, even as she sliced into those closer to entering the room.
Suddenly there was a glow on the scene that had not been there before. At first, Lauren thought that it must be Shella's work; but the workers seemed not to be frightened but rather encouraged by it. She turned her view to see what this was.
A ring of flame had appeared in the air surrounding a large circle of darkness. Man-like creatures dressed in outfits and carrying weapons that marked them as soldiers, but of a sort unlike any she had seen, were moving through. Tubrok's defenses had been well-planned. He'd devised a crew of commandos he could deliver by magic to any point on the globe. The report of the opening of the Tokyo dome had reached him, and he had wasted no time in getting men to the spot.
"We've got company," Bethany said. "They look mean."
Slade stood up from the desktop where he'd been sitting. "It's about time," he said. "I'm ready; bring them on."
Lauren sent the blade firmly against the newcomers, striking one hard; but whatever it wore for armor protected it from the full impact of her assault, and he stumbled back a step and then continued forward. As she watched and continued striking, the soldiers moved into some formation whose purpose was becoming clear. Six of them launched tethered missiles at the wall, and another dozen readied what appeared to be automatic rifles their direction. A command was given, and the tethers were drawn taut with a yank.
Lauren knew what to do, almost without thinking. She would need the full force of her mind for this. She dropped the clairvoyance and the force blade. The wall in front of them was ripped away, crashing outward as the tethers pulled it down, and the hail of bullets collided with the force shield she managed to raise. It pounded against her brain; she held it, as the bullets ran down.
She had spent many hours reviewing the scriptures, and particularly those she'd used effectively in the past. Now was the time to go on the offensive. She began shouting her words of faith. "If God is for us, who is against us? And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men, and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire. And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. It is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment."
It was the enemy's turn to fall back. Of course, Lauren was only one of those pouring forth a magical barrage against them; hers, however, was hitting them hard, with light, fire, and spiritual torment.
Three of those who were not carrying weapons, however, began chanting in response. Lauren did not know the words; but she recognized the sound of the language. It was that obscenity of speech which Horta had used against her years before. Tubrok was no fool. He knew there were wizards involved, and he'd sent wizards to fight them. The light dimmed; the fires were extinguished; the attackers reorganized.
Bob Slade had rushed past the defensive wall. Lauren realized at that moment that she'd let it fall as she'd been attentive to her magic. The troops were replacing clips, and there would be another barrage of bullets in a moment. She didn't think she could withstand it again. "Incoming," she shouted, and ran forward, leaping into a flip above the line of fire and drawing her revolvers.
Bob was already fighting man-to-man with sword and dagger. Lauren's feet found one of the soldiers, and the first rounds from her revolvers impacted two others; but the vests these were wearing took most of the brunt of her heavy fifty-caliber shot, and the man on whom she landed fell backwards but recovered quickly. These were not ghouls; they were vampires. They threw her aside, and she failed to roll with the impact, landing badly and having the wind knocked out of her and her mind dazed for the moment. Bullets tore through her robe, deflecting off her hidden armor; but the enemy ignored her after that. Perhaps they took her for dead.
She rolled over; they were past her, closing on Derek, Bethany, and Shella. Bob was holding his own, but four of their people were fighting him at once, and he was losing. Lauren needed to get past the pain and attack again; but even if she could, it was not clear that she could save them. As Derek had said a moment before, it was a tough nut to crack.
Suddenly something connected in her mind, and she knew.
She pulled from her pocket that strange gadget Saint Peter had given her. Hey aleytheia eleutherosei humas. Could it be as simple as that? Bethany's pouch came out, and she felt through it removing the mysterious acorn, the one object for which she had been given no clues or hints and yet now perhaps knew everything. It had been made by Bethany. She dropped it into the bowl of this strange object, and turned the handle. This was indeed where she had seen such a thing before. It was a nutcracker. The words could only mean one thing. She translated them, or rather, repeated the verse of scripture which she was now certain was the translation, even as the shell of the acorn cracked under the force of the closing screw.
"The truth will make you free."
There was a flash of light, fire, and smoke, which sprang from the broken shell and took the form of a man, a familiar elderly bearded man in robe and hat. He had been right; she would eventually play a part in rescuing him from Nimue. Merlin had returned.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with ten other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #205: Verser Reunion. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: