The walls were covered in filth, the residue of lime frothing wherever the condensation had gathered. The railings had nearly vanished completely from erosion, their remains peppered in holes and brittle with rust wherever they remained intact.
Their footsteps echoed quietly through the dampness of the stairwell as they descended into the structure. An emergency light flickered inconsistently on the first landing, painting their shadows against the far wall every time it lit up.
A muffled conversation entered earshot and Lee raised his hand, commanding a halt. “Icensun, hide us.”
The door opened and two men walked in, they let the door close behind them and one lit a cigarette, handing the lighter to the other. The emergency light flickered, and only two shadows were cast on the far wall.
“So, that’s when she told me to go fuck myself.”
The other man shot his head back in laughter, which was cut short as a warm liquid splattered across his face. He backed away, coughing frantically and spitting the unknown fluid from his mouth. He backed up against the wall, and wiped at his eyes. “What the fuck?” He yelled, spitting again. “Tom?” He squinted, his blurred vision barely able to see through the darkness. The emergency light flickered, “Where are you man?” He thought he saw someone. It flickered again, as the muzzle of an m4 slammed into his throat. He clutched at it, choking on cartilage that was poking into his esophagus from his ruptured windpipe. He fell to the ground
Lee stepped on his throat, and the man grasped his boot. “Huh…” He said contemplatively, “ His cigarette’s still in his hand.” noticing the freshly lit smoke still dangling between two bloodied fingers that were clutching the toe of his boot.
The man’s eyes bulged, and blood vessels appeared like dark vines across his forehead. His face turned red and then soon darkened to blue as he lost consciousness. Lee’s boot remained. He knew it would still be at least a minute before his brain shut down completely from lack of oxygen. He wasn’t in the business of giving people brain damage by a partial strangulation. He was in the business of killing, and that’s exactly what he intended to do to the man beneath his sole. He watched the half opened eyes glaze over, and stared into them as the iris’ flared when the muscles finally relaxed. The smell of shit filled the stairwell and the mans pants darkened in the crotch as his bladder released what urine it held. His face was a pale grey now, sparkling with the last adrenaline fuelled sweat that would ever be produced by his body. He was clean shaven, and Lee imagined, somewhat morbidly, how long his stubble would grow in the days to pass as his body would go from rigid, to limp, to soft and eventually to be covered in the slime of a thousand cultures of bacteria; the pre-cursors to a frenzy of filthy creatures that would devour every ounce of flesh. “You’re just like them.” He thought to himself. “You‘re just like the maggot on a corpse. You exist only to live off of the decay of this city, and I won’t have it. I am the cure to the disease, I am the harbinger of your end. I am not driven by the superficial, but am summoned by the voice that cries from within the grasp of your tyranny, the voice that sobs in the darkness of your inequity, the voice that rises up from your betrayal.”
His response was monotonous. “What.”
The sound of his boot rising off the mans throat was barely describable, it was somewhat like the separating of two sticky surfaces.
They entered the hallway the men had come from.
“Gaedien, how many.”
He stopped, focused with his eyes closed. “I don’t want to search too far, I know there’s a magic user nearby and he’ll feel me if I get too close.”
“Is he on this floor?”
Gaedien’s eyes opened. He locked his gaze with Lee’s and nodded slowly, his face fraught with concern.
He pointed down the hall.
“We go there first. Cut the head off the snake.”
Ace nodded. “I agree.”
They started down the hallway.
The carpet was black with filth, patches of dark blue where old furniture had recently been moved revealed its original color. The walls were stained yellow and the strand of wallpaper that ran the length of the walls at shoulder height was peeling or missing altogether in certain places. A powerful stench of rot and mildew was barely masked by the strong smell of cigarette smoke. The four moved down the hall, searching each room and moving on as they made their way to the far end of the floor. They came to a closed door.
“Stack up.” Lee said, and they lined up behind him as he moved up to the frame.
“Lee.” Icensun said.
Lee looked back.
“This is it.”
His eyes were an inferno. “Gaedien and I are struggling to keep us hidden from his passive senses. He’s there… trust me, only a few feet from the door.”
“I suppose you can’t hide us and blow the door open at the same time.”
Icensun shook his head. “We’re barely making us unknown Lee, we need to hurry Gaedien and I can’t keep this up too much longer.”
“Alright, Ace. Masterkey.”
“With pleasure.” Ace moved past him and inspected the door. He got ready by putting himself off the line of the doorway to avoid being hit by any incoming fire once the door was breached. He raised the shotgun to the top hinge and peered over his shoulder to nod. He received the nods from the others and turned his attention back to the door. He took in a few deep breaths, rehearsing the motions in his mind and then fired, dropped the shotgun to the second hinge while cocking it to chamber another round which was immediately fired. The second casing was barely out of the chamber when Lee pushed past him and kicked down the door.
Lee entered through the smoke of the shotgun blasts and peeled left, clearing his corner before swinging his muzzle back into the depth of the room. A figure moved in the haze and he squeezed the trigger. The rounds clattered in his ears, muffled by the damage the shotgun had already done to them. The target dropped, but his peripherals picked up another. “Too far right Lee, trust your team.” He fought every urge to swing his muzzle to the center of the room and engage the target. He focused before him with his eyes, but his mind focused on the blurred figure in his peripheral. Time slowed, “Come on.” He yelled in his mind to his team. “He’s going to fucking shoot me.” He said, watching at the edge of his vision as the figures shoulders raised. The urge was nearly uncontrollable, the scratching of his instinct tore through his mind like a frenzied fire. A flash erupted from the figure and time stopped. His mind raced. “I’m done.” “No you’re not calm down.” “I’m so dead.” “I’m being irrational, Ace’s got it under control.” “No, he doesn’t, I have to return fire.” “Hold your corner!” The flash came again, the thud of a firearm shockwave, the high pitched slapping sound of the bullet ripping through the air. Everything rushed forward, his first target rose up from behind the counter with a shotgun, and Lee’s mind shifted focus from the blur in corner of his eye to the cratered acne scared face of the man in his sights. His finger squeezed and he felt the jolt in his shoulder, smelled the carbon as the bolt released the empty casing, felt, on his face, the spray of gun oil pushed out through the narrow seams by the expanding gas. He watched his target go down a again, this time with considerably less face.
“S T O P !”
As if the voice commanded the universe, everything in the room ceased. Silence ensued, all but the final clatter of empty casings hitting the tiled floor.
“What exactly do you think you’re doing?”
Lee couldn’t move, he forced with all his will, but his body was rigid. He couldn’t even see the others, didn’t know if they were even in the room.
“How pitiful. I should crush you like the insects you are.”
Lee stared ahead. “Fiend, if there was ever a time I needed you to be perched on that damned rooftop, it would be now. If I really do have a speck of your magic in me, then you will hear me. We’re all dead if you can’t set me loose from this spell.”
“I think I’ll start with you.”
Lee’s body torqued and lifted into the air. His rifle fell to the ground as he was pulled across the room to find himself face to face with a masked man.
“Look at you.” it said, it’s voice deep and guttural. “You’re nothing compared to me.”
Lee willed with every ounce of his being to move, but nothing budged. Even his lungs were paralyzed, and his need for oxygen was growing quickly.
“What, I wonder, are you thinking?”
“Come on Fiend, it’s now or never. Fiend, you were lying to me weren’t you. Fiend…
F I E N D!”
“Pitty, I’ll never know.”
“Go to hell.”
Lee saw through the sockets of the mask, that the mans eyes were opened as wide as they could possibly be as his knife slid through his trapezium muscle.
Lee dropped to the floor, the mans magic lost in the pain his body was enduring as he grasped at Lee‘s blade, still lodged in his flesh.
Gaedien levitated from the charge of a growing spell. “You’re fucked now buddy.”
Icensun raced forward, his eyes blazing in a fiery rage as he screamed with fury. His blade erupted with power as he lunged through the air, it’s enchanted edge cocked above his head.
“Sartoca!” The man uttered, and a flash of energy burst out from his palm toward Icensun, who’s charge slowed, but not enough.
Icnesun’s blade came down and although the steel itself missed its target, the power coursing through it lashed out and ripped through the masked man.
The man lurched back, grasping at his face as his mask was torn in two.
Lee drew his pistol and fired, every round landing with a sickening thud into the mans chest.
The masked man raised his arm. “Astralera!” he cried, as another flash of light blasted through the room, sending Lee crashing into the far wall.
Gaedien’s spell took up a quarter of the room when he focused it into a point of light the size of a dime. “Eat this.”
The man raised his hands. “Defraca!” he yelled, as Gaedien’s spell shot out like a spear of light. It smashed against an invisible barrier that split it into a dozen rays that all rounded the edges of the force field to end up crashing through the wall behind him. “You’re pathetic. I will show you true magic.”
“I’ll show you a ten gauge slug.” Ace said, firing the last round from the Masterkey. It hit home, severing the mans right arm.
“Ugh!” He yelled, vomiting through the already split mask.
Icensun spun around. “Shit, we’ve got company.”
Lee just starting to get up from the ground when a man burst into the room, pointing his weapon at Gaedien. He raised his pistol and fired a round through his kneecap. The man fell, and Lee put a second round into his head.
Gaedien turned to Icensun. “I’ll charge you craft, get us out of here.”
Icensun nodded and closed his eyes in focus.
Gaedien began to rise up again.
More men started pouring into the doorway and Lee fired the remainder of his pistol ammunition as he regained his footing. As his slide locked to the rear, another one came through the door. He grabbed the man’s pistol and pulled him forward, slamming searing barrel of his pistol into the mans eye. He reared back in pain, but the barrel drove deeper into his eye socket as Lee shoved it forward. He pulled the pistol out of the mans failing grasp and shot him in the back of the head with his own gun. A blur of movement in his peripherals caught his attention and Lee turned to see Ace floating in the air in front of the masked man. “No!” he yelled, running across the room with every ounce of energy left in his broken body. Just as he lunged for Ace, a sickening tug pulled him back. “No!” He yelled again, fighting it with his mind. He was pulled back, but soon realized, that he had gone further than the rear wall was located. The room stretched out before him at a distance that grew inconceivably fast. Before he knew it, the room had been stretched to an infinitely small point, and suddenly the sensation reversed. A picture began to fly toward him, growing in clarity every moment as he felt as though he was being pushed outward by some great force. He fell from some height on to the gravel of the rooftop. Ace was within arms reach. “What the hell?”
“Come on Lee. We need to get out of here, they’re coming.” Icensun said, punching commands into the dropship. “They wanted us to see how powerful the cultists where, well. I think we found out.”
“Yeah, no shit.” Gaedien said, helping Ace to his feet.
Icensun powered up the engines, “We’re done here. Right Lee?”
Lee nodded, laying in immense pain on the floor of the dropship.
“Alright, I’m taking us home.”
From the cold steel floor, Lee looked out to the rooftops as the ship took off. He could see them swarming out of the building like a disturbed insects nest. “A plague, a pestilence, that’s what you are. I am not finished with you yet. I WILL end you.”