The pace Angus set for his new recruits was brisk. They ran for long enough that even Lethen’s hardy, half grizzard legs were burning. When they reached a spot Angus determined to be good, he held up his hand in a gesture for them to halt.
“This place has good cover,” he said. “If we edge along here we will be able to see what’s going on without revealing our position.” He handed each of them a small pea-sized piece of plastic. “Put these in your ears. They will let us communicate. Angel, how good are you with that thing?”
“I can fire it, but it won’t be much worse than a bee sting. I only got it yesterday.”
“Can you make it sound like a regular gun when it hits? I don’t need the firing blast, but the tink of ricocheting bullets might make for a useful distraction.”
“I can try.”
“We’ll make do with whatever you manage. I want you at least three floors up watching. We will be able to hear everything you say so let us know if people start moving toward us. Go now.”
As Angel dashed off, the rest of the team put their ear-buds in. They were a little uncomfortable, but the ability to communicate as a team was vital. It didn’t take long before they heard Angel’s voice coming through them. “I’m in position. I can see four of them from up here. Two on each of the first two floors.”
Angus asked, “Are they holding positions or patrolling?”
“The two on the second floor are stationary, they’re keeping watch from the balconies. The ground floor guys are walking around.” There was silence while Angel watched them. “They seem to be following a pattern. Making a round, stopping to chat with each other, then covering the same ground again. I’d suggest we make our move while they’re talking. You should be able to get past them easy enough.”
Angus sized up the team. “Are you any good with those weapons you’ve got? Half-breed here looks like he can barely hang onto his.”
Lethen accepted the point. “He is a wily beast, definitely still feral, and I don’t think he likes me very much.”
“So he’d get along with a lot of the people around here.” Angus said. “What about you midget, ain’t that thing a little big for you?”
“My daemon and I have known each other since I was a baby.” Renala said. “She will protect me. And I’m not a midget. You have to be under four foot nine to be a midget.”
“How tall are you?” Angel asked over the ear-bud.
“Four foot ten.”
“Ok midget,” Angus said, “I’ll trust you and your daemon. And I know Marnie’s had a little training. Don’t screw this up half-breed, so far I’m guessing you’re our weak link. Then again, you didn’t go and get yourself captured. That puts you slightly above Prolier for the moment. Angel, we’re moving closer, when I tell you to, start peppering the left side of the building, we’re coming in from the right. You see any problems, you let me know.”
It didn’t take long for them to reach the last possible line of cover. Angus told Angel to get on with it. After several seconds of nothing, he wondered what was taking so long.
“I’m trying,” Angel said, “but I’m not used to trying to make noise, I was trained to be as quiet as possible.”
“Well you’re the distraction man, think of something or take them out.”
After another brief pause the balcony guard on the left slapped himself in the face. “Damn it. I just got stung by something. Stupid bugs.” Another slap, this time to his forearm. “Where are you, you little bastard?”
The other three guards were now looking at him, two of them were laughing.
“That’ll work,” Angus said before motioning the students toward a door on the right. Luckily it turned out to be unlocked and they were able to slip in without notice. The problem now was that they were on their own. Angel’s vision couldn’t see in here so there could be no warning from that quarter. “Alright, spread out a little. We don’t want to get in each other’s way. Midget, I want you covering the rear. The reach on that thing will help you. I’ll take point and you two take the middle. Watch everywhere and help where it’s needed. Angel, you just keep watch and keep us updated. Let me know if you see unusual movement and you’ll help us get back out if we need it. Getting Prolier out is the priority. If we can take a few of these guys in the process, that’s a bonus.”
They fanned out as instructed and raised their weapons. Lethen’s daemon was still acting up and the shaking was worse now that it was held at arm’s length. It felt like it was trying to rip itselt out of his hands. It must have been so recently bound that it still didn’t understand it’s new form. Trying to get away; thinking it still had legs to run on once it got loose. It jerked suddenly, smacking the wall before he could restrain it.
“Shut that thing up,” Angus said. “We have to be quiet, at least until we get Prolier. If they know we’re coming they might kill him on principle. If you can’t control your daemon, you can’t be trusted and maybe you should leave before you endanger us all.”
Lethen gripped the shovel with both hands. “It won’t happen again.”
Angus nodded and led them through the building. Having trained here when he was younger he knew the layout of every inch of the campus, but knowing where the rooms are doesn’t give you foreknowledge of where someone might be. Lethen figured he had a few likely targets, but there was no guarantee. Every door they passed could have armed men inside them, just waiting to ambush them.
It was five long minutes before they heard a voice in this large abandoned building. Apparently it had once been much more than a sawmill, with many offices and room devoted to shaping the wood and carpentry. While it made sense to have the jobs that required wood in the same building that made it, it made the search more complicated that Lethen had imagined when he heard the word sawmill. He wasn’t sure what exactly he’d expected, but it wasn’t a place that looked like an entire school of shop classes.
They stopped and strained to listen, hoping to be able to pick a few words out here and there. It was coming from up ahead, a door on the left of the hall was ajar, a sliver of light poking through to leave a luminous stripe on the concrete floor. There was only one voice, so either the man was senile or he was on the phone.
“If he’s having them looked at, who’s on his post?” The man said. Lethen guessed phone since the man stopped talking as if listening to a response. “So do they know what bit him?” Another pause. “What do you mean there’s no bite marks? Was he or wasn’t he bitten by something?” Another pause, longer this time. “Redness but no sign of even tiny punctures? I can only think of one thing that would do that. Break time’s over, we’re under attack.”
Angus swore under his breath, and darted into the room. There was a thump, a short cry of shock and a thud indicating that a body had hit the ground. Angus stepped back out. “The alarm’s been raised kids. That guy knew what marks a badly used daemon gun would leave. We have to hurry.”
They ran down the corridors, barely glancing in the rooms they passed. Either Angus knew where he was going or he was able to fully scan an entire room in the time it took to move his head back and forth. Neither would’ve surprised Lethen. In order to become a teacher at Hikari, you had to have been an accomplished daemon knight already. The people who had invaded the school were clearly idiots.
They came to the edge of a larger room. Angus signaled another stop before they got too close to the doorway. There were three enemies that they could see from their position. Prolier was gagged and bound to a chair between them. There was no way they were going to free their fifth without the guards seeing them. They had the advantage of numbers, but considering three of the four were rank amateurs, that didn’t mean a whole lot.
“We’re going to have to rush them.” Angus said. “Angel, make some noise out there. We need them concentrating on an attack from the outside. If they spot you, fall back until you can find another position to snipe from. Keep moving if you have to, but try to keep the pressure on. I know it’s not really hurting them, but it’ll piss them off enough to keep some men out there. The fewer we have to face, the better.”
“Understood.” Angel said.
“I’ll take the first one as we charge in, Midget, you swing left. Half-breed, you and Marnie go right. Once mine’s down I’ll help where needed. Go now.”
They rushed into the room, heading toward their intended targets. The guy Angus took had an enormous claymore. Renala’s foe carried a short sword and Lethen’s enemy had a tonfa. Lethen charged forward hoping that his daemon would actually work with him for once. When he took his first swing, he knew that he’d hoped for too much. His swing went wide and he caught a blunt strike to his ribs, causing him to crumple.
Angus was having much better luck. He’d switched his daemon to it’s whip form and had scored a couple solid hits. A glance in Renala’s direction told him that she wasn’t lying when she said her daemon would protect her. She hadn’t hit her opponent, but her halberd was spinning an intricate pattern around her body and deflecting any hits that came her way.
Lethen got back to his feet and circled behind the guy Marnie was fighting. He had to do something. He couldn’t face being the weak link in the team. Prolier may have gotten captured, but once he was free, he’d be able to fight. He’d come from one of those established daemon knight families that trained their children and got them accustomed to their inherited daemons long before even applying at Hikari.
Looking at his unstable daemon Lethen decided that he would be a liability in the fight and he could be more useful elsewhere. He ran over to Prolier and ripped the gag from his face before working on untying his other bonds. It didn’t take long to get them undone. Whoever had tied them hadn’t done a very good job.
Prolier rose from the chair and picked up the claw from the table next to him. “Don’t assume this means I like you, half-breed.” He slid the glove part over his hand and stretched his fingers. “Let me show you what a real daemon knight can do.”
Angus had dispatched his opponent by this point and had moved onto help Renala. She still hadn’t hit or been hit and her foe was shouting in frustration. Marnie was having a tougher time of it and Prolier jumped to her aid, backhanding the guy with his claws. The rest of the fight was over in seconds, all three of the captors unconscious.
“You’ve got to learn to control that daemon, half-breed,” Angus said, “but at least you did something useful. How are you Prolier?”
“Fine. Just a little stiff. They had me tied to that thing for almost an hour.” Prolier kicked the prone form at his feet.
“Time to get out of here. Angel, how’s it looking outside?”
“Are you looking for this?”
They turned to see a group of ten armed enemies, all advancing toward them. The leader pushed Angel to the floor in front of them, looking as though they’d roughed him up a little.
“We found this outside and assumed it belonged to you.” The leader said. “And you’re not going anywhere. We had one captive, now we have six. I’d say we’re getting richer by the second.”