She slapped the butts of her pistols against her thighs, saying a little prayer to Samedi, then jerked her hands up and back, plunging hooks soldered on the backs of her guns into the tender flesh between her thumb and index finger. Pain like fire drove up her arms, and the world slowed as the drugs pushed through her system - she would have preferred not to use chemicals for this sort of thing, but it was Nathan's rote originally, which meant drugs. Two more bullets screamed out from her guns, laced with Entropy and Quint, long red lines trailing off them as they headed for the glass, the room rocking with an explosion as they hit home. She threw up her hands to guard against the inevitable rain of shards.
Twin bursts of red and yellow fire blossomed outward, flames curling up the wall to the ceiling, dissipating as fast as they'd appeared. She lowered her arms slowly, opening her eyes, looking for the damage. Two large scorch marks decorated the panel, but it was essentially unmarked. She slammed her fist against the floor in frustration, her ears beginning to clear, sound coming back. Angel looked over her shoulder at the rest of the people in the room, blinking away the spots where light had temporarily blinded her.
Amergin had shifted, but not like the huge hulking forms she had associated with werewolves, it was thinner and more stretched out, almost human, if humans were seven feet tall and very hairy. He had ripped up planks of the hardwood floor, and was clawing at steel that rested underneath, sparks flying as he dragged his hands across it. There were bloody tracks gouged into it - those fierce white claws wouldn't last much longer, before he was striking with the bones of his fingers.
Shade was battering at a panel with what was left of a very expensive chair, tossing it aside when it splintered again to punch at the glass with her fists, the shadows deepening more around her. Nathan was humming under his breath and staring at his pocket watch, a smile on his face. Angel recognized Nathan on LSD instantly, his eyes glazed over. He wasn't really seeing the pocket watch. In front of him a glass panel was opening and closing, making protestant mechanical sounds first in a loud screech, then a backwards crescendo of sound. Time was at work there.
"Nathan's got a way out! Everyone to that panel!" she shouted over Shade's booming punches and Amergin's increasingly frantic clawing. The vampire looked up first, and was outside of the panel faster than Angel could see, rubbing her arms and looking nervous. Amergin shifted back to his human form, stalking out after the Lasombra, looking death at the vamp again. Angel grabbed her bags and picked up Nathan bodily, dragging him through the wall when it opened again. She checked over herself and him, then snapped her fingers in front of his eyes. The boy as losing power at an alarming rate, though he wouldn't know it with all the drugs coursing through his system right now. She gave him a sharp slap across his face, and he dropped the watch, his eyes clearing a little, though not enough for her liking. The gold bauble swung on its chain, tapping against his leg, and he just smiled happily at her. The wall clicked shut with a final swing, and they were now trapped in the hallway instead of the library. She wasn't sure it was an improvement.
"That bastard ha' set oos up," the werewolf growled, flexing his fingers. Angel gave him a look that translated to something like "Duh" and he narrowed his eyes at her.
"Now now, children," Shade spoke up, smiling at them all now, especially Nathan. He smiled sweetly back at her, like a child. "We've obviously just got to find someplace to bed down and stay put. I've seen dramatic exits before, though I gotta say this tops everything but that Tzi who missed the bear trap."
"Bear trap?" Nathan asked, his eyes still fogging by degrees. He was still smiling like an idiot.
"I threw it at him."
"I don't want to stay here. You guys can have this house," Angel told them, adjusting the belts at her thighs. She'd pulled her holsters from her bag and strapped them on, though working the buckles in the dark wasn't easy. She should have bought some of those nylon jobs when she had the chance, but they lacked the style of leather. She hadn't really thought that she'd have to be a functional death mage at a house sitting. "Come on, Nathan. Let's go."
"I want to look around first," her brother blurted out, his eyes clear again. At her incredulous look, he grinned sheepishly and waved around him. "Didn't you read the walls? Latin. It's death spells. That's no Son of Ether talking to us in there, Angel. He's got to be infernal. We're supposed to take care of that stuff, right? You're supposed to, anyway."
"Yeah, with a crew of 12 other Euths packing more arsenal than the US Army, Natch! Not on my own with a drugged out Cultist, a vampire, and a surly werewolf!" she yelled, getting exasperated. Why was he reminding her of her Tradition's rules? He'd hated her choice since she'd made it. It was just a mark of her annoyance that she was using his childhood nickname.
"I'm ne surly," Amergin grumbled.
Angel just rolled her eyes, squatting down to rifle through her backpack for more weaponry. She had read the walls, and it was all about spirits, not just death. Wraiths were very bad news. Very bad.
Michael Jeffery walked past the long line of sliding glass doors that were thankfully locked into place against nothing but air. At least, that's how it seemed. If he put on the slim blue-rimmed goggles that he was nervously tapping against his other hand, he'd see what the rooms actually contained. The smoky double lenses revealed what was normally unseen, but it made him uneasy to watch them watching him. Bad enough that he knew they were actually there. Dunet had always given him a strange explanation involving Ether and its ability to pierce the Umber, or something like that. The old man had been crazy. That was all there was to it.
What he had built this for was certainly insane. Even in all these years as an attorney for the magickally touched, he'd never seen anyone pursue a dream like this, collecting such dangerous and frankly scary things to keep in their house. Yes, there'd been that one Hermetic who'd made him go along with trying to get the scales from a golden dragon, but that had been part of a large group of similarly trained mages, and was done as humanely as possible. No one had died, least of all the dragon. But Dunet had used real people as bait, and people had been killed by these freakish things in the process of gathering them. Heaven only knew how many had died before Dunet had gotten there.
There were sounds coming from upstairs, booms and knocks. Nothing Dunet hadn't told him to expect from these people. Two were mages like the old man used to be, apparently. Who knew what havoc they were capable of wreaking in this place. He wasn't planning to stick around long enough to find out. The house was still moving around panels on the upper levels, still sorting itself out. He had time.
He reached the last room, and looked inside at the huge machine that dominated the circular place, its great wheels still. It looked old already, even though it'd been built less than a century ago. Rust had settled onto it, and though he'd been assured that it would run, he wasn't altogether sure it really would. It looked ancient and somehow alive, like a sleeping giant that would rise with the proper words. For all he knew, that was true.
Michael shook his head, and cast his gaze about to find what he'd come for and get out of here. He still had a half hour to get out before the real test of those people would begin, and he planned to be long gone by then. If he came back in the morning and they were all departed, so much the better. He'd sell this house, and that would be that. He smiled at seeing the money resting by the machine in its black backpack, just as Dunet's will said it would be. One million, all his, just for giving the old kook his time and attention for the past few decades. Not a bad deal, really, when he thought about it. He hadn't been that bad of a boss, up until the end, with all this Umber shit. Didn't matter now.
The explosions upstairs had ceased, and heavy footfalls sounded from the hallway above, which told him they'd somehow gotten out. His time was now far less than it might have been otherwise, so he had to work fast.
He lifted up the bag and slung it over his shoulder, running his hands through his hair to take off the sweat from his fingers. Little whirs sounded around him, and he lifted his head again, blinking rapidly. Metal groaned against metal, the huge machine in the middle of the room starting to shake, rust falling off like dust motes, drifting through the air and coloring it orange. He looked down at the spot where the backpack had been resting, noticing the lever that was now up from the floor, apparently held down by the weight of the cash at his back, and groaned. He'd been played for a fool.
He ran from the room with the bag bouncing against his back, his eyes wide and panicked. There was a hiss and a bang behind him, and he ran faster, shoving the goggles on his head, sparing a glance over his shoulder as he kept up his pace. Panels were moving again, and there were shouts from upstairs, but he didn't care about those people now, so much as the thing behind him.
A thin woman with large high breasts and long limp wet hair slunk from her room down the hall, her blue eyes glowing from within her head, and she raised a long rusty knife to her face as her gaze focused on him. Cuts covered her from head to toe; some old, and some so new they were still open, though there was no blood anywhere on her. She looked very dead, blue and pasty with it, right down to almost purple lips. She was almost seductively pouting at him, but there was nothing friendly or suggestive about the knife. He pounded his feet against the floor, the writing on the walls, the ceiling, the floor, all of it glowing to the smoked lenses of the goggles. He was close to the exit, though, at least. All the times Dunet had taken him down here had been partly to shock him, partly to familiarize him with the layout in case anything like this happened. He'd get there, get out, and hit the button to keep the spirits in, and then he'd be safe.
Michael rounded the corner, and slammed into another writing covered panel, bouncing off of it with an echoing thud. He shook his head to clear it, then threw himself against it again, mewling sounds tripping out of his mouth. Hot tears stung his eyes, and he turned slow, spreading his hands across the slick surface, looking for a knob, anything. Dunet had set him up to fall more thoroughly than he'd have ever believed. This door probably sealed when he lifted up the bag. It had never closed before.
He was crying like a child when the girl came around the final corner, her knife held high. Michael was regretting every time he ever stared at her breasts, even though she was dead and it shouldn't have mattered. None of the others were naked, why did she have to be? He took the goggles off, thankful that in the end, he at least wouldn't have to see death coming.
He was lifted off the floor in one great push, his suit, skin, and bone splitting from his groin to his chin, pain lancing through him. He could still feel it all, though his heart wasn't beating at all now. His brain was still registering it all, and then it shut down the pain centers, because it was just too much. Shock took him over, and he went numb. Blood as pouring from him, pooling on the floor, except for two long footprints standing in front of him. It flowed around where the woman stood, even though he couldn't see her.
Weird. He thought. He twitched, a great convulsion that shook him from head to toe, and there was nothingness.