Chapter 10

Magically fuelling his arm with speed and strength, James swatted the gun out of the way, swinging it 90 degrees to face away from him. The gun went off, and the Chol roared in anger. However, the anger froze on his face as James lifted his gun, and shot him three times directly in the chest. The Chol stumbled back, his eyes rolled back, and then he fell over the edge of the building, falling to land on top of the injured enemy below, killing them both.

James felt sick again, though less so than the time before. He dragged himself over to the far edge, and peered down at the battle. The red auras seemed to far outnumber the blue ones, and as he watched a few blues that got isolated from the group got extinguished. Growling slightly, James reached into the stone floor, and pulled a Barrett .50 cal Sniper Rifle out. He looked down the scope, sighted his enemies, and then fired. A Red aura was extinguished, for that was all they were to him at this distance – pretty lights, to be blown out.

However, after a few moments, the auras disappeared, as though they had all been extinguished at once. The fighting below carried on, however, so James assumed someone was blocking him. How, though, was beyond him.

Suddenly, there was a roar, and a dome of brilliant yellow light spread out over the whole area. From the top descended stalactites of light, spreading downward until they struck the ground. Then the lights faded, and when James looked down at his hands all that remained of his two guns were dust - dust which rapidly blew away in the wind that had picked up out of nowhere.

James reached for the wall, and though it let his hand in, he couldn't pull anything out of it. Frowning, James started to pull his hand out, only to freeze. His hand was stuck in the stone. He was trapped.

For the first time, James tentatively started to extend his magic forward, probing the magic that held him, never quite coming close enough to get caught. It was large – not massive, but large. His hand shifted a little as the magic focused elsewhere in the battle – not enough for him to just pull free, but enough to work with.

Carefully, he aimed a blast of magic around his hand, fitting it perfectly to his shape. He then started to pull, and the magic acted as an irritant to the larger force's magic, and it withdrew – only for a moment, but long enough for James to snatch his arm out of the wall. It was then that he noticed that the sound of battle had faded. Looking over the edge, he saw only littered bodies – mostly his own men. Then he heard footsteps behind him. Turning, he saw a Chol in a black robe pointing a pistol at him.

"James Crowe?" The figure said inquisitively, and James nodded.

"I am Hale. You will come with me."

"Like hell I will," James growled.

Then he threw himself off the roof.

Padmal sat in his room, staring at the ceiling. Above him spun a fan, turning lazily as if it didn't even care about what the temperature was. Padmal slowly sat up, and picked up the book he had on his bedside table. It was the history of the Maglev, unabbreviated. Padmal flipped to where he had been – page three-hundred and seventy-two – and started reading. He read for about five minutes, before his watch beeped, notifying him of Daze contacting him.

"Hello?" He said in to the timepiece, setting down his book.

"Padmal - they're coming in force. Get the hell out of there!"

"Who?" He said, with his brow furrowed.

"The Chol! You're in the middle of a massive battlefield!"

Padmal shut off the connection, and rolled off the bed. He landed in a kneeling position, reached under his bed, and pulled out his suitcase. He pulled out his gun, and clipped it to his belt, hiding it under his coat. He then closed the suitcase, picked it up by its handle, and walked out of the room.

He made his way to reception, and smiling at the receptionist, told her he was checking out. She nodded, and marked him out. She then smiled, and told him to have a nice day. He told her that he would.

Padmal stepped outside, pulled out his cell phone, and called for a taxi. His watch beeped once again, and he answered.

"Hello, Daze."

"Padmal, what happened!"

The man smiled, and shifted his weight over to his other foot. "The signal must have been cut off."

Daze harrumphed and then said "I'm sure. Anyways, Padmal, you have maybe ten minutes until they get there. You should be on the move, not sitting around outside the hotel waiting for them."

"You forget," Padmal responded drily, "I can't run as fast as them. Running would be absolutely fruitless. I must drive."

"You don't have a car."

"I have a taxi. It should be here in… oh, about eight minutes."

Daze sighed, and muttered, "Your head."

Padmal sat down on a bench, and stared around him forlornly. The Parisian streets seemed far more lifeless by night – as though the pallour cast by the streetlights sucked away its life. The calm before the storm, as some might say. Despite the imminent doom, nothing moved. The night was still – cloudless, and without wind.

His eyes came to rest upon a white picket fence. It was spotlessly white, with not a single piece of wood out of place. It was the exact opposite to what he was used to, and so his eyes rested upon it. Padmal frowned, and muttered to himself "Life isn't like that. Nothing is ever like that."

The taxi arrived.

Padmal rose up, and walked towards the vehicle. The window rolled down, and the sombre taxi man – or in this case woman – stared out at him.

"Oú vous allez?"

Padmal frowned, and said, "Pardon, madame, mais je ne parle pas Francais. Est-ce que vous parlez Anglais?"

"I speak… a leettle English."

"I'd like to go to the airport, please."

The woman nodded, and Padmal walked back over to the bench where he'd left his suitcase. However, as he bent over to pick it up, there was a rushing noise, and then a bang, and he felt a burst of warm air against his back. Turning back around, he saw the burned out skeleton of the car. There was no trace of the woman.

"They're here," Daze hissed from his wrist, and suddenly, they were everywhere. The Chol soldiers ran down the street towards him, guns in hand, laughing. Padmal took one look at them, blanched, and ran back in to the hotel.

"This place is about to turn in to a bloodbath," Daze whispered from the watch. "Get out of there!"

Padmal pulled his pistol from under his jacket, and ran full tilt towards the rear exit of the hotel. He was halfway there when a man in his sleeping gown stumbled out of his room, looking wide awake.

"What the hell is goin' on?" the man yelled in a Scottish accent.

"We're under attack!" Padmal yelled, and ran past him. He slammed open the back door to the hotel, and ran at full speed across the pavement behind the building, towards a field. A bullet whizzed by, and Padmal looked over his shoulder to see the man from before in the doorway, shooting at him.

"Wizard," he muttered to himself, and returned fire. The bullet went wide, and smashed a pane of glass. Another report rang across the field, and a searing pain shot through Padmal's right shoulder. He fell in to the grass, gasping. A laugh rang out behind him, and the faint sound of footsteps grew louder every second as the Wizard approached to finish him off.

Padmal reached over with his left arm to pull the pistol out of his limp right hand. He then lay perfectly still as the Wizard approached. When he was a metre away, Padmal aimed the gun upwards, and fired. The bullet hit the Wizard in the heart, and with a cry, he fell to the ground – dead.

Padmal held back tears as pain coursed threw his arm. He began, slowly but surely, to drag himself through the field away from the hotel. Once he was fully out of sight, he stopped for a few minutes to regain his strength, and then slowly rose to his feet. Stumbling as he exited the field, on the far side, he started to make his way down hill away from the hotel.

"Padmal?" a voice whispered from his wrist, and Padmal glanced down at the connection that had been live the whole. Daze's face was as white as a sheet – well, whiter than normal, if that was possible. The black on her face was grayish-black, like coal.

"Oh my God, Padmal, you're hurt!" she murmured, horrified.

"Yeah, I'd noticed." Padmal hissed, wincing as another surge of pain shot through his shoulder. "Is there anything you can do?"

"Not from here. I'm sorry – magic is only close range. That's why the Wizard and Chol have to wage direct warfare on one another – they can't just make all of the other species die off."

"Then how are you talking to me?" Padmal hissed.

Daze looked at him like he was crazy.

"Oh. Wait. You're not using magic to talk to me, are you?"

"Not purely. It's a combination of magic and technology – something only the Penguis have. Luckily, even if either side captured our technology, it can all just be teleported back to us."

"Great – but if it can't heal me I don't really need to know this. They could send out scouts any second. I need to get to cover."

"Right," Daze said, suddenly businesslike. "You're about two kliks south of the outskirts of the city. Better get to walking."

Padmal nodded, and a bullet whizzed overhead, making him duck. It was just a stray shot, but it made Padmal feel as though he were being hunted. Keeping low, he started to head north, in to a small forest.

However, after only a few minutes, there was an explosion from behind me, and a golden dome appeared overhead, spreading from over the hotel to about two-hundred metres in front of him. The Dome solidified, and stalactites of golden light began to descend from the top to crush those below. A stalactite was directly over Padmal, and as it rapidly descended, Padmal only had seconds to move out of the way.

He dove to the side, and the brutal impact send shrapnel of what was now stone out in a circle, piercing in to Padmal's already hurt arm. The man cursed heavily, and then headed towards the dome. As he approached it a few minutes later, he could practically feel the power radiating off of it. It was a powerful spell.

Padmal reached towards it, entranced. His fingertips grew closer and closer to the dome, until they were mere millimetres away. Then, as though some magic had released its hold on him, he withdrew his hand, and picked up a long branch off the ground. He swung it at the dome, and there was a loud report. The branch came back half the length it had been before, with the end blackened and smoking.

Clearly, Padmal couldn't just walk out of here.

"Daze?" He said, looking at his watch. Daze's face wasn't on the screen. There was just static. The dome must have been interfering with the signal. Padmal sighed, and leaned against a tree, pressing his head in to his arm.

No allies, no escape, no defenses.

He was trapped.

Daze stared at the screen in shock. All of a sudden, without apparent cause, her connection had been cut with Padmal. He hadn't ended it, either – of that she was sure. No, the only thing that could have happened was that something – or someone – was blocking the signal.

Which was impossible, because no Chol or Wizard could tie magic together with technology.

She turned over to another console, and logged in to the international satellite network. Using her access, she could look at any place real time. By applying filters to it, she could see magically guarded areas. While the hotel had not been, she assumed magic would be involved, naturally.

All she could see was a large yellow circle where the hotel had been. It didn't have the properties of any sort of explosion, and was around four kilometres in diameter. Frowning, Daze switched the filters, trying to figure out what it was.

Then she set the view to 3D.

"Oh… Oh, shit." She hissed, staring at the monitor in disbelief.

"Rhewi Phalanx."