I met the trio down by the stinking bathrooms. Of all the things that had changed since I walked through these accursed halls, the bathrooms predictably remained the same. While I could only manifest physically for short amounts of time, I was grateful I could turn off my sense of smell. Cigarettes, semen, unflushed toilets, and worse smells all wafted out of the bathrooms, creating an aroma that would be the closest thing akin to olfactory rape. But thankfully, my new volunteers would not have to worry so much about that. I froze local time, as before, once they made eye contact with me.
"Matt!" Jason exclaimed. "I've got some company!"
"Will and Janet, I presume?" I asked as I waved to both. "Glad you could join us. Nate will hopefully be available tomorrow."
"So, how do we do this?" Will's face hardened. "Is there some weird-ass way of fighting? Or can we just shoot them in the head and be done with it?"
"Actually, shooting is a completely valid way of fighting them," I told them. "But no ammo is needed. Here. Follow me."
I pointed to the men's bathroom, and opened a hole outside the brane. I walked through, and found myself in a small niche that had been forming next to the main one under the stairs. It was easy to realize that we were not alone. Larger niches were often prone to letting in other things, such as drones in this case.
Looking around, the scenery was enough to almost cause me to pause. The floor was a cracked, shit-stained version of their normal "pattern" of yellow with random green tiles. What looked liked smoked cigarettes and used condoms covered the floor. The walls looked like even crappier and crumbling versions of the "normal" bathroom walls, with their chipped, yellow (and probably lead filled) paint. The ceiling had the same dim, flickering electric lights that the real bathroom had. The walls of the niche were adored with slime-covered urinals. It was one detail, in particular, that set it apart from the real thing.
"Ew," Janet cringed as she looked at them, turning her head away. "Yuck! What are those nasty things?"
The strange creatures scurried around the floor, each fading in and out of three dimensional existence as they ventured in and out of an ever-expanding hole in the wall. Their bodies were vaguely insectile, but specific details, such as body segments and even number of legs could not easily be determined, as their physical details seemed to merge and separate with their bodies.
"These are drones," I pointed to them. "They're exactly as they look: interdimensional cockroaches that eat the fabric of reality."
"So this is what's eating our school?" Will stared at one as it grabbed a chunk of toilet and vanished back into the wall.
"It's one of the things," Jason explained. "Here, can we use them for target practice?"
"That was my idea," I replied. "Everyone, watch what Jason does."
Jason pulled out the bright rubber pistol from his backpack. He aimed it at a drone that had just emerged, and imaged pulling the trigger. A shot vomited out of the gun, and the drone vanished in an explosion of messy fluids. Looking at the mess he had made on the floor, I saw the insides of the drone more resembled something that had spent too much time in the back of the fridge than the normal and expected chitin. Other drones immediately began to consume bits of their fallen comrade.
"Damn! That's some toy you have there!" Will exclaimed. "I thought your parents hated guns."
"It is a toy," Jason replied. "But here, what matters is how you perceive things. Will showed me all you need is a perception of an object as another, and it effectively becomes that."
"But only in the niche," I replied. "Anything from pointing your fingers and saying, "Bang," to rubber guns to even the real thing can work. But once you enter, things get crazy."
"That much is obvious," Will looked around. "So, say I was to get my airsoft gun, and perceive it's a real assault rifle. It would work like a real one, then?"
"Yup," I replied. "And not just fake guns. Plastic swords, empty-handed strikes, and things that would be otherwise impractical work fine in here. But generally, the closer to the real thing it is, the easier it will be to use."
Will began smirking. "Oh, I think I'm going to have fun here," he mused. "Are there any limits? Where do these powers come from?"
"From inside," I replied. "Your mind is able to comprehend a few fundamental truths of self-awareness. But in order to expand your awareness, a certain being must help you. Those beings, the Titans, are the creators of reality. But it's best if you have a symbol of some sort."
"I have a pretty creative anagram of my initials," Jan added. "Does that count?"
"More like a...patron. It's basically just a channel that the Titans use to grant you power. The more familiar you become with it, the more effective you become," I explained. "A mythological, religious, or literary figure normally works."
"Can I have Iktomi, then?" Will asked, turning to Jason. "Now I think I know why you asked me that earlier."
"How about you, Jan?" Jason asked his friend. "I'm going for Leviathan."
"Hmm. Can we change it later on?" she asked. "I've got some ideas, but I want to be sure."
"We can always change," I answered. "What was your idea?"
"It might seem silly, but..." Jan smirked. "How about Saint Barbara?"
"Why the hell would you want anything to do with this shithole school?" Jason grumbled.
"Because Saint Barbara was the patron saint of thunder," Jan rubbed her hands together. "And artillery. And I'm hoping to work on cannon crew for re-enactment team later this year!"
"I have an uncle that runs a military surplus store," Will added. "So, supplies won't be much of an issue."
"Both of you, try shooting a few bugs," I looked at both Will and Jan. "We'll meet here tomorrow. Bring Nate tomorrow. We'll discuss some more advanced things, then."
Janet's hand shook as she was handed the rubber pistol. She aimed at the hole in the wall, covered her eyes with her other hand, and pulled the imaginary trigger. There was no shot.
"Don't just point the gun at it," I said. "Kill it."
Jan peeked one eye out from under her hand, and tracked a drone across the floor. Her hand became steadier, and she pulled the trigger. This time, a shot rang out, and goo splattered all over the floor. As before, the drones cannibalized the remains of their fallen.
"Ew," Jan looked away before handing the gun back to me. "That's enough for me."
"Will?" I handed the toy weapon to senior as his eager hands yanked it away. He immediately stepped into a shooting stance, held the weapon in both hands, and lined up the barrel with a drone. This time, the drone simply dropped dead with a wound.
"Why didn't it explode?" the perplexed shooter asked, turning away as the other drones again turned on the corpse.
"Because you have too much of a bias about guns," I added. "You know real guns don't cause things to explode like that. When two people handle the same item, they can be differences in effects due to differences in perception."
Will nodded, and handed the weapon back to me. I handed the rubber gun back to Jason.
"And that concludes today's lesson," I replied. "Tomorrow, bring your friend Nate along. And any items you might want to try to use as a weapon."
With that, I lead all three out of portal, and closed it behind me. "Everyone, right after school tomorrow, meet here," Jason ordered Janet and Will. "As Matt said, bring a weapon. But nothing that couldn't pass as a toy or model. The last thing we need is more negative attention. Right, Matt?"
He turned to where I had been a moment before, but I had dematerialized. The flow of time resumed, and the stumped teenagers looked for me for a minute before realizing I was gone.