Chapter 18: Agent of Tragedy

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Sarah marched down the halls of the Calvin Mansion as she fingered the weapon in her hand. She had purpose and was determined to see it through despite the danger. She held confidence in her men and her weapons. The only point of doubt in her mind was Taylor Calvin. What was the wayward daughter of her estranged partner doing here? By all reports, the young woman engaged the other archons in violent conflict, but to what purpose?

And is there any other way for this scenario to play out other than the demise of us all?

Sounds of the battle became louder as she and her men approached. And then they heard a massive explosion rock the house. The floor beneath them shuddered, and more than a few of them hugged the wall, praying the flooring would not give out beneath them. They looked at each other for several seconds before Jacobs gave the okay to proceed forward again.

Their second surprise was the sound of heavy caliber automatic fire ripping through the walls of the house with an excessive tempo.

"That's not our weapon," Hal Jacobs said. "We don't have anything that heavy that isn't bolted to an AV."

"Sounds like an M134, sir," Michael Creed said.

Jacobs nodded and continued onward, advising his men to take extra caution. Several more shots were fired before they reached the blown out area of the house, coming up on the backs of their former allies.

"Stand down!" Jacobs ordered.

The other men turned, startled, and their weapons turned with them, but they were caught off guard. Some of them looked among themselves, unsure what to think under the circumstance. After a tense second, one of them lowered his weapon and stepped forward.

"Sir! What are your orders?" He glanced behind him as he spoke, daring any of the others to oppose his surrender, but one by one, they lowered their weapons as well.

"And how do we know we can trust you?" Creed asked.

"Like you would have done any different, Creed," the man said, sneering, "or any of you. We did what we always do: survive."

Jacobs nodded. "Then tell us what we are up against, Hallaway."

"The intruders killed the men that were corrupted by those things. The acolytes. One of them can shoot around corners, and one of them brought a damn minigun! We can't compete with that. Now it's the Calvin girl ripping shit up. She's gone berserk! She smashed those demon things, and she's killing everyone in sight with some kind of laser whip! I've never seen anything like it!"

"Calm down, son," Jacobs said. "Sounds like she's the primary threat. Let's see what these things can do," he said, hefting the weapon in his hand.

They rushed the room with weapons leading to find their men sprawled on the floor and the three archons on the ground beyond them. Two of the invaders were taking cover behind a downed section of the walls, and the Calvin girl was staring down another woman.

Sarah's heart stopped. The "invaders" were her old team, and the woman she once considered a dear friend was among them. Worse, Taylor was advancing on her, eyes filled with venomous hate and a red whip of pure energy lashing about.

Amber! Oh no, what is she doing here?! Please no, she thought. Taylor had gone berserk, and Amber was in danger!

"Stop her!" she yelled and rushed forward.

Jacobs and Creed followed her, sporting heavy versions of her deadly weapons that resembled large hand cannons with flexible hoses leading into large backpacks, which acted as storage tanks for captured, filtered mana. In place of open barrels, the weapons were fitted with thick metal antennas. Sarah's weapon was a smaller handheld unit with its own affixed tank.

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