My feet pounded on the concrete floor as I raced around the concourse surrounding the baseball field. Straight ahead of me was a sign pointing toward a door that apparently led to the announcer’s booth.
There was a guy standing there guarding the door with a rifle of some sort. As soon as he saw me, the man snapped around to bring the gun up, but I was already loosing an arrow that took him in the chest. The concussive force blew the man backward. I hadn’t fully charged it, because I didn’t want to kill the poor guy, but it was enough to put him on the ground for a moment. I went right over him, rearing back to kick the door ahead of me off its hinges.
That fell, and I nearly went straight through. But then I took a hint from Vanessa and gave the doorjamb a quick glance. Sure enough, there were spells written on it. I wasn’t good enough yet to know what they were from memory, but I did know that they definitely weren’t anything good.
I also didn’t have time to mess with them. The others were out on that field right then, in a fight for their lives. Or at least for Abigail‘s life. I had to deal with Ammon now.
To that end, I held my staff out and announced, “Teatime, boys.”
That was another code phrase that I had come up with, and ‘my boys’ (Jaq and Gus) immediately reacted by appearing through their little portal and went straight to the end of my staff, leaping off of it to land on the doorjamb where the spell was. The two of them clung to the wall before each began to vibrate quickly. A second later, there was a burst of electricity from the little guys.
That was courtesy of a little help from Columbus over the past week. The cybermice could disable lower to average quality spells with a burst of stored electricity (just like Sands and Scout had shown us at the beginning of the year), or use it to stun people. Either way, it was another tool in my belt, and it had just come in handy.
Hearing the sound of the man picking himself up behind me, I reared back to kick him in the face, knocking him down once more before heading through the broken doorway while my mice hopped back on the staff. Once through, I went straight for the stairs on the other side, taking them several at a time in a rush. The whole way up, I kept my eyes peeled for any more spells. It was clear that Ammon wasn’t yet good enough to keep his spells invisible, but I was still cautious.
More men appeared as I reached the landing halfway up, and I had to fight my way through them in those cramped quarters. They seemed to be under orders to hurt me but not kill me, which kind of put us on equal footing as far as that went, since I didn’t want to kill them either. I had no idea who these guys were or how much they were involved, but I was pretty damn positive that they had been controlled by Ammon into doing this.
Still, I had to get past them. What followed was what was probably only a few seconds’ (but felt like several minutes’) worth of furious fighting up and down that cramped stairwell as I struggled to get through the mounting crowd intent on keeping me there. More and more of them appeared, from both sides. I was penned in as they kept trying to grab me despite how many times I hit them.
Good. I’d been waiting until I was pretty sure that all the people Ammon could send to stop me were right there. With a grim smile as they tried to grab me yet again, I held one hand up. In it formed the largest ball of that nausea-inducing goop that I could manage. Just as the swarm tried to dogpile me, dragging me down with them, I ducked my head and held that ball up while slamming my staff into it to trigger a concussive blast.
Hearing gagging and choking all around me, I quickly repeated the process. Creating another ball in my hand, I triggered the blast from my staff again and coated more of the people all around me in the stuff that made them fall to their knees, throwing up and gagging. It was pretty disgusting actually, but it was also effective. Within a few seconds, enough of the crowd had been reduced to a non-issue that I could hop over them and continue on my way.
Finally reaching the top of the stairs, I found myself in a short hallway with a few doors. Only one was labeled broadcast, so I kicked that door in as well, already snapping, “Ammon!”
There he was. The boy who was my half-brother was standing right on the other side of that doorway, with the wide glass windows overlooking the field behind him. I could see the fighting still going on, Avalon, Vanessa, and Koren struggling to keep the group away from that button. It had clearly been hit a couple more times as more lights had changed, but so far, Abigail was still alive. But I really needed to finish this quickly.
“I hope you’re happy with yourself,” the boy informed me snippily while crossing his arms. “You just can’t stop cheating, huh? I go through all the trouble of setting up a nice, fun game for everybody, and you have to ruin—”
His words were cut off then, as I slammed into the boy, knocking him back with against the control board. My staff was shoved up against his throat, half-choking him as I demanded, “Call it off! Tell them to stop, Ammon! Tell them to stop right now!”
Fairly unsurprisingly, he didn’t. Instead, he just smiled at me while speaking around the staff. “But we’re all having such a nice time.”
“It’s not a nice time! It’s people’s lives! I know you don’t care about that now, but you used to. You used to understand that. You used to feel things, I know you did. What about Mom? How would she feel about this? You have to stop them!”
And yet, it was clear that he wasn’t going to listen. I didn’t know if knocking him out would end everything, but it was sure is hell a good start. So I focused on applying more pressure with my staff, working to choke him into unconsciousness. All while a part of me said I should just kill him. End it and kill him. But I could knock him out here. I could knock him out and we could solve all this.
Or at least, that was the plan. Unfortunately, Ammon had other ideas. I saw his hand moving, producing some kind of enchanted object. He said a word, and then the world spun around us. A teleportation spell. He’d triggered a teleportation spell.
We didn’t go far. When the spinning faded, I found myself back in the parking lot with Ammon standing a few feet away. And we weren’t alone.
“What—” Koren spun, looking around in confusion. “Flick?! What the hell is going on?!”
“You’re welcome!” Ammon chirped. “We had to bring you with, silly. I didn’t want you to die too when the stadium blows up. See, I can be nice.”
All of the blood drained from my face, and I felt myself grow intensely cold while my heart seemed to stop. “What?”
He was grinning at me, holding up a remote with a button on it. “See,” he crowed, “I was prepared. Three quick pushes of this button and kaboom! No more big sister or mommy.” He nodded to me, then Koren in turn. “And no more stupid, cheating friends. I told you they shouldn’t have come. You should’ve listened.”
His finger went for the button, but Koren was faster in that case. She had already flung one of her Hunga Munga throwing axes. In a flash of steel, a spray of blood, and a scream from the boy himself, the axe sliced right through his wrist, severing the hand that was holding the remote.
Instantly, the other girl used her weapon’s power to teleport herself to it just in time to catch the remote before it could fall.
Ammon, still screaming in disbelief, instantly lashed out. He was clearly a lot stronger than he looked, because his kick took Koren in the side and sent her flying, the remote dropping from her hand.
The boy try to grab it for himself, but I was already there. I couldn’t grab it, but my staff lashed out to smack the remote away, sending it tumbling along the pavement of the parking lot. I held my breath, but as Ammon had said, the button needed to be pressed three times in a rapid succession to trigger the explosives. The remote fell onto its side, skidding to a stop finally.
A hand caught my arm then, Ammon’s strength even with only one remaining hand nearly crushing the bone in it as he turned to fling me bodily into Koren just as she was getting up. We crashed in a heap, quickly disentangling ourselves before rolling apart. Looking up, I saw Ammon reaching for the remote. His hand was already on it. With a cry, I created a portal with one hand while shoving my staff forward through it. A burst of concussive force knocked the boy backward and made him release the remote. I made another quick portal to grab onto it and yanked it back.
I had the remote then, and I immediately started to crush it in my hand. Just as I did so, however, the thing let out a loud warning beep, startling me.
“Go ahead!” Ammon taunted. “If you break it, it sends the signal anyway!” He punctuated this by sticking his tongue out at me, acting as if we were fighting over a television remote and not something that could blow up the entire stadium, killing Avalon, Vanessa, Abigail, and who even knew how many other innocent people.
Even as I was reacting to that, Ammon made a sharp gesture, and the remote flew from my hand, yanked away by an invisible force. Clearly, the boy had been stocking up on more powers than just some enhanced strength while he’d been away.
The detonator flew toward Ammon. But before it could reach him, Koren used one of her axes to teleport beside it, catching the thing in midair. Her reward for that was a blast of water from Ammon that took her in the shoulder with enough force to knock her to the ground as the detonator clattered away from her.
Ammon was going for it, but I created another portal, putting my fist through it and into his face to knock the boy back a step with a yelp. It was obvious that we needed to focus on putting Ammon down. Every time we grabbed the remote, it just got taken back away from us. We needed to deal with him directly.
It was a horrible situation to be in. We had no idea what was going on in the stadium. We didn’t know how Avalon and Vanessa were doing, if they were still managing to keep the brainwashed mob away from the imprisoned Abigail, or if they had been overwhelmed. I had no literally no idea if my friend, my girlfriend, and my big sister were even still alive. I had to trust that they were. But if we let Ammon get his hand on that remote again, that wouldn’t matter.
Already recovered from that punch, the boy himself was diving for the detonator right then. But my staff snapped up and I launched the grapple, which caught the boy by the leg and yanked him back as he let out a cry of frustration, bellowing something about cheating. He managed to jerk his way free in mid-air, landing hard before shooting a glare at me.
“Leave my mom alone!” That was Koren, of course. The girl reared back her fist from over fifteen feet away. When she lashed out, a column of concrete from the ground shaped like a larger version of her arm erupted upward and slammed into the boy, knocking him flying. A power that I didn’t know about, apparently. From the look on her face, Koren was surprised that it had worked.
“Slab!” I blurted, trying to gesture that way to demonstrate. “Cover him. Trap him!”
Thankfully, the other girl understood and held both arms up, focusing on one thing a wide slab of concrete to shove over the boy. Unfortunately, it had only just covered him when he suddenly appeared on top of it, passing through it in some kind of intangible state.
Dammit, I was starting to realize just how annoying it was to fight one of us. I had no idea what powers he had, or what might be effective. And he kept pulling out more of them.
Worse, he was going for the detonator again. His hand was almost there when Koren arrived, using her foot to kick the thing out of the way. Denied his toy, Ammon caught the girl’s ankle instead and flung her aside. As she rolled, he held his remaining hand (the other one was still regrowing) up and and launched a bolt of electricity at her.
But I was there, interposing myself and letting the bolt charge my body with the absorption power before sending it right back at him. The returned jolt knocked Ammon off his feet with a squeal that I had to guiltily admit felt pretty good.
But he just wouldn’t stay down. That continued for a bit more, the three of us struggling to find some winning combination that would let us shut the other down. But it just didn’t happen. Koren and I couldn’t make Ammon stay on the ground, and he couldn’t keep his hand on that detonator long enough to actually use it. We kept struggling, kept fighting and bleeding, but none of us could actually win. The best strategy I had right then was just to keep going until Ammon got tired, but he wasn’t showing any sign of that. Koren was, unfortunately. And I was afraid of what would happen when it was down to just Ammon and me. Playing keep away with the other girl to help was already hard enough.
No, we had to finish this. Somehow, someway, we had to finish it. If Koren was getting tired, I had no idea how Avalon and Vanessa were doing. This couldn’t keep going on forever.
Then I had it. And I also felt like an idiot. The answer had been in front of us the whole time, almost literally. “Koren!” I shouted, “Black Knight!”
She looked confused for just a second, then seemed to realize what I meant. With a quick nod, she spun back toward Ammon, who was starting to duck toward the detonator with a gleeful laugh. It was like he still thought this was a game. A game that we were apparently cheating at, but a game nonetheless. It wasn’t serious for him. Even having (temporarily) lost one of his hands (it was already starting to grow back), he was still treating it as a game.
Just as he was about to grab the thing, I was there. Launching myself that way with a blast from my weapon, I dove at the last instant to snatch the detonator in one hand before rolling back to my feet. Spinning to him, I held the detonator out tauntingly. “You want it, come get it.”
He was still a kid. A psychotic and evil kid, but a kid. Which meant he took the bait. With a shout, the boy lunged with his arm outstretched. He’d forgotten to keep an eye on what Koren was doing.
It was a mistake that he paid for immediately, as the other girl took advantage of his stretched out arm to teleport beside him with one of her weapons. The other was already raised and abruptly cleaved down through his limb at the elbow.
Half of his arm suddenly fell to the ground while Ammon himself let out a horrified shriek of disbelief.
“Push the button now, you little bastard,” Koren snapped, even as she lashed out with a kick that took the boy in the chest and knocked him to the ground.
Grabbing the detonator myself, I held it in one hand while announcing, “Okay, now we just—”
Abruptly, Ammon was standing in front of me. Even with no hands, he snarled a hateful, “Bitch.” Then his foot lashed out, catching me in the side and taking my breath away. I dropped the detonator as I was sent to tumbling to the ground.
The detonator was there. It was right at Ammon’s feet. The boy raised his leg, clearly intent on using his foot to trigger the damn thing.
Koren and I were both throwing ourselves that way, my staff raised to blast the boy away from it. Then there was a flash of white, and a familiar voice called, “Koren, Felicity!”
It was Professor Dare. She had arrived, clearly coming to find us without knowing the exact situation. My mouth opened to blurt a warning, but it was too late.
“My name is Ammon, do nothing except what I say! Put a force field around us!” Standing right beside her where she had appeared, my psychotic little brother took instant advantage of the sudden arrival.
There was the slightest delay, then a glowing force field appeared around the two of them as ordered.
“No!” Koren shouted. “Professor Dare, stop! The bombs! He’ll make you set off the bombs! My mom, Avalon, Vanessa, all those people, you have to leave!”
“Don’t do anything except what I say,” Ammon quickly repeated his previous order. “Pick up the detonator.”
Koren shouted, and both of us hit the force field to no avail. I tried creating a portal through it to grab the detonator, but my power wouldn’t go through the damn thing. We kept hitting it uselessly as the blonde woman reached down to take the remote.
No, no, no! This couldn’t go like this. We had him. We almost had him. We could’ve dealt with this. Dammit, dammit, dammit! What could we do? What the hell could we do now?
I was screaming. Koren was screaming. Yet our voices could not drown out Ammon’s.
“Three times,” he ordered. “My name is Ammon. Push the button three times.”
“I’m sorry.” Professor Dare’s voice was a broken whisper, the woman sounding emotionally destroyed, like her soul was shattering into pieces.
And then she turned. In one smooth motion, the woman’s free hand lashed out. Her sword appeared in her grasp, the blade glowing with power. There was a sickening thunk and a spray of blood.
Ammon’s head hit the ground, rolling a bit as his body collapsed. Then there was silence. Utter and total silence, even as Professor Dare’s magenta kill-aura flared up.
It was impossible. Completely impossible. Ammon had given her a direct order, had even told her not to do anything except what he said. She had to do it. There was no way she could have resisted, no way that she could have been immune to it. No way that she could have done what she just did.
No way, unless we were related. Unless she was my… our…