Chapter 10, part 1

Seattle, 1 November 20xx, 12:49

Go!” Roger yelled, his face strained with the effort of punching through the ward around the building.

Striker, shouldering his Panther cannon, drove his massive shoulder into the door, breaking its hinges. He bulled his way into the room, with Fang right behind him and Roger bringing up the rear. The troll stopped short when he saw what was in the room.

“Blessed Dog,” Fang mouthed when she saw the prisoners. “Paul, look!”

Roger had moved into the center of the room. “Get them down,” he said, his gaze darting swiftly back and forth. “I don’t think we’ve much time. Hurry!”

Striker ran over to where Winterhawk and Ocelot were chained. The two prisoners watched him with dead, uncaring eyes. “Not real...” Ocelot mumbled.

“Just another dream,” Winterhawk whispered in agreement.

Striker ignored them. Grabbing one of Ocelot’s chains with his huge hand, he knotted up his enormous troll muscle and ripped the chain apart a few links from the manacle. Then he did the other one, and Ocelot slumped in his arms.

Harry, lying on the floor nearby, awakened at all the noise. “What the hell--?” he demanded. Suddenly the room was full of people he didn’t know.

“Who are you?” demanded the huge troll holding Ocelot. His low rumbling voice was menacing.

“I’m Harry,” Harry said. “Who the hell are you?”

“Here,” the troll said, handing Ocelot over to him and moving to Winterhawk. Ocelot was blinking his eyes, trying to get his feet under him. Harry staggered back under the weight, finally propped Ocelot up against the wall.

“You know that guy?” Harry asked, watching in wonder as the troll broke Winterhawk’s chains with ease and grabbed the mage’s body under the arms as he sagged.

“Yeah...friend. Striker.” Ocelot shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs from it. Maybe this was another trick, but he hadn’t had one like this yet, so he wasn’t going to take chances on its not being real.

“Let’s get a move on, people,” came Roger’s anxious voice. “Come on. Move.”

Winterhawk was standing on his own power now. “Roger?” he asked, confused.

“Righto, Dr. S,” the spirit said. “You’re looking terrible, but you’d better get your things so we can leave. I think the wards are down, but I don’t think they’ll stay that way.”

Ocelot heard the words “get your things,” and that was enough for him. If this was a trick, so be it. But if it wasn’t, at least he was going to go down with his gear. “Come on, ‘Hawk,” he said, staggering over toward the pile of their equipment.

Suddenly, a loud, maniacal laughter filled the room, followed by a voice that held the very essence of rage. “How dare you?” the voice demanded, and then it was there.

Fang and Striker froze in terror, staring at the thing that now occupied the middle of the room. About three meters tall, it resembled a giant octopus with flat, pasty skin of a sickening purple hue. Its black eyes were huge and dark and carried within them thousands of years of stark, ravening evil. “You wanted to see my real form, mage?” the thing screamed. “Well, here it is! Look, and die!” It began to turn.

“Shoot it!” Roger cried, readying a spell of his own. Striker, roused from his paralysis by the spirit’s voice, leveled the Panther at the thing and pulled the trigger.

The shell tore through the Horror’s skin and it screamed, reeling backward. Fang clamped her hands over her ears and staggered back, but forced herself forward again. The thing could be hurt; that was encouraging. Striker was already preparing to fire another round.

Winterhawk and Ocelot ignored the Horror, knowing their only chance to make a difference in the fight was to get their gear as quickly as possible. Ocelot, by sheer effort of will, reached the equipment pile and began throwing on his armored coat at lightning speed, snatching up his sword and monowhip, going for the guns last. Harry had gone with them and was helping Winterhawk gather his own gear; as soon as the mage’s hand touched his mageblade, the despair and weariness seemed to drop away from him. Harry flung the longcoat around Winterhawk’s shoulders, holding it up as the mage plunged his arms into it.

Magical energy blossomed around the Horror as Fang and Roger both hit it with their strongest spells. Striker’s eyes widened as the spells seemed to have no effect, and furthermore, the hole he had made in the Horror’s flesh with the Panther cannon was sealing up before his eyes. “Oh, shit--” he muttered, then yelled, “It’s healing itself! How do we kill it?”

The Horror laughed. “Stupid troll! You don’t!” It swooped one of its waving tentacles toward the troll and his sister, flinging something frighteningly fast and hideously black at them. Roger barely managed to dive out of the way, but the black substance hit the young runners and tossed them effortlessly back against the wall, where they slumped together to the ground. “Now for you two,” the Horror sneered, turning its terrible bulk around to face Winterhawk and Ocelot. It waved two more tentacles, and crackling magical energy flew in a deadly arc toward the two runners.

“Not this time, bastard!” Winterhawk cried, raising his sword. The Horror’s spell slammed into them, but stopped short, most of it dissipating against one barrier, then the remaining energy fizzling impotently out against a second. Behind the Horror, they heard a scream, and Winterhawk saw Roger wink out of existence. He understood now what had happened: the spirit had used his own energy to block most of the spell’s power. The mage hoped that Roger had not destroyed himself with that effort, but had no time to spare for it now. If the Horror was allowed to cast another spell of that magnitude, they were all dead. He didn’t think he could block it on his own.

Ocelot looked at him, then darted off to one side. Winterhawk, seeing the plan, activated his levitation spell lock and zipped off to the other side. The Horror would have to deal with them one at a time, he hoped.

And then, suddenly, something utterly surprising happened. With a nearly-hysterical war-whoop, Harry ran out from where he had been hiding and launched himself at the Horror’s back, sinking his hands into its soft flesh and hanging on for all he was worth. The Horror screeched and flung its body back and forth, sending the fixer careening off into some machinery, where he twitched and then lay still.

But this had given Ocelot the opportunity he needed. His muscles were hurting like fire, but he ignored the pain. They would only have this one chance, and he wasn’t going to blow it. “Hey!” he screamed. “Over here! Over here, ugly!” He vaulted toward the Horror, sword swinging madly, hoping desperately that Winterhawk had figured out that he was trying to be a diversion.

The mage had indeed figured it out. As the thing turned to fend off Ocelot’s attacks, he triggered his spell lock again and moved in quickly and silently, slashing at the back of the Horror’s head with his sword. He could feel the magical power coursing through the blade, and knew he had connected when the creature shrieked in agony, wheeling back around to confront this new threat. Black ichor spewed from back of its head.

Ocelot pressed his advantage, slipping in between two of the tentacles to drive his sword into the base of the Horror’s neck, near where Winterhawk had struck it. The sound of its screams was almost deafening. Running on pure reflex now, the Horror’s tentacles snaked out and grabbed Ocelot, hurling him with all its great strength across the room. Ocelot felt his back contact something hard, heard something crack, and then all went black.

Winterhawk was the only one awake to see the Horror sway, the light in its hideous eyes dimming, and then teeter and crash to the floor. He braced himself against a wall as the whole floor shook with the force of the creature’s impact.

For a moment, he just stood there, leaning on his sword, exhausted, watching the immense bulk of the creature from outside any of their experience. When it did not stir, he moved in slowly, his curiosity getting the better of him. He didn’t think it would remain here for long, and he wanted to get a look at it before it disappeared. He would just stop here for a few seconds for a look before he went off to help his friends, and then--

The tentacle had him before he even saw it coming. It wrapped around his neck quick as a cat, and suddenly he felt something strange. He brought his hand up, trying to pull the thing off his neck, but it was too strong. The tentacle tightened, and it was--sucking the life from him. He could feel a transfer taking place, feel his lifeforce beginning to dim as the creature’s once again began to grow stronger. This was unlike anything he had ever felt before, and it terrified him. Acting on sheer instinct and his last ounce of willpower, Winterhawk hefted his mageblade and jammed it into the creature’s head, pushing with every shred of strength he possessed. If this didn’t work--

The tentacle began to fall away.

The creature screamed.

Winterhawk screamed.

Then the creature’s body was flying to pieces. The last thing Winterhawk remembered before he was thrown full-speed into the machinery was the sight of the Horror finally dissipating into nothingness.

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Copyright ©1996 R. King-Nitschke. The Shadowrun universe is the property of FASA Corporation.
No part of this story may be reproduced without permission from the author.