All things considered, it wasn’t that long of a drop, only about forty to forty-five feet. Which would’ve been pretty bad or year ago, but with the enhanced strength I had picked up by this point, forty feet wasn’t really bone breaking.
It also went by fast. I only had a moment to feel the air rushing around me while cradling Avalon to me before the drop was over. Bending my knees as I landed, I felt a jolt to go through me. It still wasn’t fun, to say the least. I’d say at that point it was about the same as jumping down six or seven feet normally. Definitely enough to feel it, but I survived without breaking anything.
Shiori, meanwhile, was different. She went down the shaft with a good bit more agility and grace than I did with Avalon. Every couple of feet while falling, one of her hands or feet would snap out to brush along the wall to slow herself with that wall climbing power. She didn’t cling for long, just enough to slow herself so she could land easily right beside me.
“Get the doors open,” I blurted to the girl beside me while quickly dropping Avalon as gently as I could. I didn’t have time to be too gentle however, because I was already whipping back around while drawing my staff. Shifting it into its bow form, I took aim right up at where we had jumped from. Sure enough, there were already a couple of those soldiers leaning down with their guns starting to aim at us. Quickly, I loosed a shot that sent a concussive energy arrow straight up at them, knocking the men backward and throwing off their aim. I followed up with a second arrow just to be sure, making them reluctant to show themselves again for at least a moment.
Meanwhile, Shiori was working out the elevator doors. Using her metal power, she shoved the doors open before looking back at me. “Clear,” she quickly informed me.
She started to move then, but I quickly shook my head while putting a hand on her shoulder to get her to look back my way. “Wait,” I whispered. When she blinked at me in obvious confusion, I pointed above us to the elevator doors on the second floor. Then I loosed three more quick energy arrows at the spot we had jumped from once more to drive the people there back even further before they could open fire, and to get them out of the way. From my pocket I yanked out a small smooth white marble, one that I had already prepared. Activating the spell on it, I threw the marble all the way up to the same spot where it exploded into a bright burst of light and sound. The flashbang spell I had learned way back at the beginning of the year, which felt like a lifetime ago. Seriously, had it only been about six months? What the hell happened to time at this school?
In any case, that would cover us for a couple of seconds, and Shiori was already acting. She had climbed up the wall to the second floor elevator doors and already had them up. Stowing my weapon, I picked up Avalon once more and took as much of a running jump as the small space allowed. Shiori reached out to catch my arm and helped me make it the rest of the way up and through. As soon as I was on solid ground she quickly took the initiative and closed the doors once more.
Just in case, the two of us ran quickly away from that spot, ducking through the nearest door we could find before shutting it behind us. Only when I saw that the room we had ducked into was empty aside from some tables and lab equipment did I slightly relax.
We were on the second floor. But with any luck, our pursuers would think we had gone all the way down to the first and stayed there. That’s where they had last seen us, and we left the elevator doors there open. It might buy us some time. I knew the walls here were supposed to be immune to most X-Ray type powers, for patient privacy. But I didn’t know how far that would extend. We were going to have to be careful. I had no doubt that Manakel would spare absolutely no resources trying to get Avalon back.
And speaking of things he would do to get her back, I closed my eyes briefly. Tabs, what about the others? Even as I voiced the question, I felt my worry spike. If he tried to take one of the others, or even all of them, and threatened them, what was I supposed to do? What could I do?
Safe, came the response that let me breathe again. Well, you know, not really safe safe, but they’re out of the rooms and they know what’s going on. Or, at least they know there’s bad things happening. I’m trying to let them know, but it’s hard. We’re mostly working through charades. And, um, they think I’m you.
Good enough for now, I replied. Better than trying to explain all that to Rudolph and Doug right this second. Get them to stay together and safe. We’ll try to meet up with them as soon as we can. We’ve got to find a way out of this place.
“Flick?” Shiori touched my hand, whispering, “Are they okay? Columbus?”
Nodding quickly, I relayed what Tabbris had told me. Just as I finished, we heard footsteps coming at a run. It sounded like a lot of people. Quickly, the two of us moved to the other side of the room, ducking behind one of the long lab counters there while bringing the unconscious Avalon with us. The troops reached the door and I tensed. But they kept running past, clearly heading for the elevator doors. I heard people calling about spreading out to search down there and finally let myself breathe out a little once they had completely passed. My little trick had worked. It would take them time to verify that we weren’t on the first floor. Especially given all the different powers we could’ve had. They might not ever be able to completely verify it. It was an opening, a chance.
Shiori was smiling a little at me while we crouched there behind the counter. “You’re pretty smart, you know that?”
My voice opened to respond, but before I could, another voice spoke up softly instead. “Yeah, she is.”
My gaze snapped over to where I had set down Avalon to prepare in case those guys had come through the door. Her eyes were opened, and she was staring at me in a way that immediately made a blush leap to my face while doing funny things to my stomach. “Valley!” I blurted in something that was as close to a whisper as I could manage in that moment. “Oh my God, you’re awake!”
She nodded very slightly, still staring at me as if she was afraid that if she blinked, I would disappear. “Yeah, for a minute now. I was trying to think of something cool and witty to say about being a damsel in distress. And about you saving me.”
My heart hammered thunderously in my chest I very slowly reached out to brush my fingers over her cheek. My voice was soft. “Did you think of anything good?
“Just one thing,” Avalon replied before her hand caught mine and yanked me down. Suddenly I had fallen into her, and the other girl’s mouth was on mine. She kissed me. She kissed me long, and hard. It was one of the most intense kisses of my entire life, and my heart seemed to soar out of my chest entirely to fly off by itself. By the time it was over I felt lightheaded, sinking back a bit to catch my breath.
Despite everything that had happened, despite the situation we were in and everything else, I felt good then. I felt safe, and happy. No matter what else happened, I was with Avalon and Shiori. And that meant absolutely everything. I could handle this. I could deal. With them, I could handle it.
Avalon seemed just as affected, taking a moment before her eyes found mine once more. “I love you, Felicity,” she announced softly, voice shaking with emotion. “I love you, and I don’t care how vulnerable that makes me. I don’t care about anything else. I love you. That’s what I wanted to say.”
I couldn’t help it. I leaned in to kiss her again, this time more gently, a soft and tender brush against her lips before pulling back to whisper, “I love you, Valley.”
Pulling back a little then, I added, with a glance toward Shiori, “I love both of you. You are both seriously a couple of the best things that have ever happened to me. You’re amazing. I can’t even start to tell you how much I missed you guys. You’re just…” Cutting myself off as a lump formed in my throat, I point away tears and tried to focus. “But right now we need to focus on getting out of—”
Cutting myself off as the sense of more objects entered the range of my power, I turned to quickly peer around the table just as a heavy foot suddenly kicked the door in. It collapsed under the blow, and three figures burst in together. Werewolf, in their beast-man transformations. The trio sniffed the air and then laughed, the biggest one stepping forward while looking directly to our hiding place. “My packmates and I knew we smelled something,” he snarled. “Now, are you gonna come out, are we going to have to collect that reward the hard way?”
Behind him, one of his two companions cut in, “The hard way, or the fun way?”
The third one answered for him, “Hard for them, fun for us.” He glanced to their obvious leader then, asking, “Call it in?”
The guy shook his head with a snare. “Nah, and risk splitting that reward for bringing them in? Not on your life. We’ll drag the little shit stains up there and take it all for ourselves.”
“Well,” I whispered to the others, knowing full well that the wolves would still hear me, “it’s nice to know that we’re dealing with morons.”
My words made the werewolves snarl angrily, but we didn’t give them another chance to react beyond that. Instead, the three of us moved.
I went first, leaping all the way up and over the counter with my staff out, still in its bladed form. In mid-air, I launched the grapple. It flew at the trio of werewolves, who easily sidestepped it because, well, they were werewolves. But I wasn’t actually aiming for them anyway. Instead, the grapple lanced through the door they had so carelessly stepped over when coming into the room after knocking it down. Landing on the other side of the table, I retracted the grapple with a twitch off my finger, yanking the door up and off the floor before making it slam into the nearest of the wolves to yank him toward me.
Meanwhile, the second wolf had to jerk backward just as Shiori’s metal discs spun past his head, and the third one was set on by Avalon. She may not have had her weapons, but that didn’t really seem to matter in that moment. My only real regret right then was that I had to focus on this guy, rather than just standing there to stare at and appreciate my girlfriends being badass. Life really just wasn’t fair sometimes.
As the wooden door slammed into the guys back and knocked him toward me, he went with the motion. With a roar, the big guy lunged at me. It reminded me of my first fight with a werewolf all the way back at Eden’s Garden when I had fought Valentine.
But this time was different. I had improved a lot since then. And I had killed more than one werewolf.
With the big guy coming at me like a freight train, I abruptly reversed the pull of my grapple. Now, instead of yanking the door to me, I was yanking myself toward the door, even as it fell back to the ground. Normally impossible given our relative weights, of course. But that was the benefit of using an energy line that didn’t care what it was actually attached to, including thin air.
Twisting as I flew through the air, I sailed to just under the man’s outstretched arms, drawing a furious growl from him. With a grunt, I landed on the opposite side of the fallen door, rising quickly back to my feet to face the guy from behind just as he whipped around and lunged at me once more.
A quick flick of my staff upward yanked the door off the ground and put it between the two of us. It wasn’t there for long, as the werewolf simply plowed right through the door. But it was long enough for me to touch the door and throw myself into the wooden material, possessing it. Which meant that from the werewolf’s point of view, I completely disappeared. One second the door was between us, then he smashed through it and I was just gone in the span of the second when I had been out of his sight.
At least, it seemed that way right up until I literally popped out of one of the shards of wood. Throwing myself out of it in a dive right behind the big guy, my right hand snapped out, a silver knife appearing in it. It was one of several such weapons I had, thanks to Athena making sure I was prepared for different problems.
In mid-dive, even as the werewolf was reacting to my sudden appearance, I slashed through both of his Achilles tendons with the silver blade. He gave a horrific cry, and dropped to his knees, his feet unable to support himself.
As he fell, the man swiped for my leg, but I was too fast. Coming up in a roll to put me just out of his range. As he growled and made to launch from his knees to me, I snapped my staff up and sent a cloud of sand into his face. That time, I was vicious about it. The werewolf choked, gagging on the sand as it clogged up his mouth even as more of it went straight into his eyes, the grains working their way into and around the orbs there to get around behind them, inside the eye socket. I was choking him, blinding him, keeping him down.
Given werewolf regeneration and tenacity, he may have adjusted even to that very quickly. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t have a chance to. I rose, taking two quick stops forward before driving my silver blade up through his throat and into the bottom of his head. In a couple of quick motions, I pulled the knife out again, then drove it down through the top of his head that time while he choked on his blood. The second stab was enough. The body drop to the floor, and I felt a rush of pleasure.
Walking over, I saw Avalon and Shiori finishing off their own opponents. Shiori’s opponent had somehow been cut in half. I had no idea how she’d managed that one. But his top half was at least still alive enough to snarl and growl while the girl herself crouched behind his head. She had two thin silver stiletto things she had pulled from somewhere, and drove them into both of the bisected werewolf’s ears until he went still and her aura flared up.
Avalon, meanwhile, had partially transformed into a werewolf-like form of her own, using her resulting claws and strength to punch through the figure’s chest and rip out his heart. He might have survived even that, but the result put him on the ground long enough for Shiori to toss one of those silver stilettos to her so she could drive it through one of his eyes, then through the other one. He fell, and I saw her aura briefly.
“Wow,” I remarked then, “you can go werewolf now?”
Her head shook a little. “I can borrow other people’s powers, temporarily.” Even as she spoke, her form was returning to normal. Pensively, she looked to me while biting her lip. She looked embarrassed. “You, I missed you.” she announced quietly. Then she added even more hesitantly, “Y-you’re possessed?“
“That’s a really long story,” I informed her. “But it’s still me, I swear. She’s a friend. She’s been protecting me. I’ll tell you all about it soon as we get a chance, I promise.
That was all it took. The other girl nodded, giving me a tiny smile that made my heart flutter. “I believe you. I… tell her thank you.”
“She heard you,” I replied. “But you can tell her directly yourself once we get out of here. Let’s focus on that.”
Nodding once more, Avalon asked, “We’re still in the hospital, right?” When we nodded, she bit her lip. “I heard them talking about some kind of jammer they would use in an emergency. It keeps everyone out of the hospital except their approved troops. If we want to get any help, we need to break the jammer.”
“Then that’s what we do.” Shiori was grinning. “Makes perfect sense. We break the jammer to get out of this jam.”
Shaking my head with a little smile, I looked to Avalon. “Any idea where it might be?”
“Yeah,” she confirmed. “It’s in the hospital director’s penthouse, on the very top floor.”
Holding up my hand for a moment, I turned away while focusing. Tabs, what’s going on with the others?
I think we’re one floor above you, she replied. They just had a fight, but they’re okay. They’re hiding again.
With a nod, I spoke aloud. “Right, the others are one floor up. We meet up with them, then make our way through this hospital, through anything they throw in our way, and break that jammer so we can have some help.”
“It’s not going to be easy,” Avalon cautioned. “Manakel has a lot of people here.”
“And he’s super motivated right now,” Shiori added.
I nodded. “You’re right, it’s not going to be easy. But you know what? I have you two with me again.
“So bring it the fuck on.”