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Escalation

Chepi bolted down the hall towards the elevator.  The monster was not far behind her.  She hadn’t got a very good look to size it up when she came through the hatch, right before it lunged at her, all snarls and teeth, so she wasn’t sure what kind of beast it was, but right now, she really didn’t care.  This job was supposed to be a simple snatch and grab, but the intel they’d been given was wrong, and things had gone sideways almost from the beginning.

Chepi had been separated from Tala and Fehed right away.  As soon as they entered the building, there was a squad of heavily armed security forces waiting them, as if they’d known to be there.  She was pissed, and couldn’t figure out how they’d been tipped off.  That was before she got to the 7th floor.  On 7, there was some type of monster running loose and now she was unable to communicate with the rest of her team.

She just made it to the elevator and was pressing the “Close Door” button rapidly, but it kept opening. She cast a revelation spell at the door and was immediately surrounded by spirits forcing their way onto the lift.

      “Great!” Chepi sighed.  “That’s just what I needed right now... poltergeist!”

                        “Don’t blame us!” exclaimed one of the spirits.  “You’re the one who released that creature!”

      “Me?  I didn’t let that thing out!  It was already running loose when I got here!” Chepi exclaimed in frustration, while preparing a shield spell.

      “And why should you guys care, anyway?” she objected.  “You’re insubstantial!”

                        “Uh, that thing feeds on chi,” one of the spirits responded, snidely.  “...and we happen to be nothing BUT pure chi, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

                       “Yeah!” another added, briskly.  “What kind of a mage are you, anyway?”

      “A powerful one, who will banish you all from this elevator if you don’t shut up and let me concentrate!”

None of the spirits spoke after that, and Chepi just finished her shield spell when the monster rounded the corner and came barreling at the elevator.  Thankfully, it closed in time, and the elevator headed down.  There was a loud thud as the monster hit the heavy metal doors above them.  Chepi slid down the back wall, folded her arms above her knees, and buried her head in them.  She hoped she would be able to reach the ground floor or the basement, rally with her companions, and get out of this madhouse.

But her thoughts were interrupted, as she heard the “ding!” of the lift alert, and the elevator stopped on the 6th floor.

Chepi sprang up; wand at the ready to blast whatever stepped through the conveyor doors.  A bloodied and battered humanoid shape fell into the elevator floor.  She lowered her wand as she recognized the bruised face.

      “Vittorio?” Chepi tried to prop him up against the rear of the hoist.  One of the spirits busied itself with frantically pressing the “Close Door” button.

               “Chepi...” Vittorio moaned, as his head fell against his chest.  Chepi heard the doors closing behind her.

      “Vitto, what happened to you”?

                        “He’ll be one of us soon by the look of him,” one of the spirits chittered.

      “Shut up, you!” Chepi snapped, assessing Vitto’s wounds.  “Did any of you spirits happen to see anything in that hallway?”

                        “Nada,” a gruff voice spoke.

                        “Nope,” came another reply, in an unconcerned male voice.

                        “It was dark?” a female voice answered, nervously.

                        “Eyes were closed!” a childlike voice piped.

      “Ugh.  I don’t know why I am even bother,” Chepi sighed.

                       “Keep calm, your friend is still breathing,” the gruff voice said.

Chepi checked Vittorio’s vitals.  His pulse was fair, his breathing ragged.  She wondered what possibly could have done this much damage to a half-blood vampire, and a strong one, at that.  Vittorio was no pushover.

This time the elevator made it to the 4th floor before stopping.  The doors had only begun to open when a massive claw grabbed the side of one door and started forcing it ajar.  The claw was covered in a course grey-and-black fur, matted with blood.

      “Oh, hell, no!” Chepi muttered, and readied her wand again, waiting for a face or body to appear to blast.

               “Chepi, it’s me, Tala,” a rough female voice said. “Please don’t blast me!”

Chepi lowered the wand slightly.

      “Move to where I can see you,” she answered, and then added, “slowly.”

Tala moved her face slowly into view.  Her fur was matted, with patches missing, torn out.  Her fangs dribbled blood from her wolfish muzzle, and she reeked of sweat, fear, and grizzly death.

               “Keep calm, Chepi,” Tala tried to reassure her friend in as soothing a voice as she could muster, but in her wolf-human form it came out like a growl, one that often caused her enemies to wet themselves, flee in fright, or suffer massive heart failure.  But Chepi was not an enemy.

               “I know tonight’s been rough,” Tala continued.  Chepi lowered her wand and slunk back against the elevator wall, while the spirits chattered in the background.  Tala stepped into the elevator, followed by the limping form of Fehed, in his panther form.  He was also covered in blood, and looked to be severely damaged, though he moved as if he didn’t notice.  Tala’s wounds were not as bad as his.

    “What happened to you guys after we got separated?” Chepi asked.

               “After we took out the guards, we tried getting to you on the 7th floor, but the elevator stalled at the 4th floor, and when we forced our way out we ran into these creatures we had to fight off.”

      “Sounds familiar,” Chepi nodded.  “That’s pretty similar to what I ran into on the 7th floor. I was able to grab the package and then book it back to the elevator... That’s where this nice pack of spirits came from,” Chepi indicated, motioning to the nearly insubstantial forms floating around the lift.

               “What happened to Vittorio?” Tala asked, pointing a claw at the fallen vampire. Fehed sniffed at him and mewled quietly.

              “And how did he get here?” Tala queried further. “He wasn’t with our raiding party tonight.”

      “I’m not sure,” Chepi frowned. “When I left the 7th floor, the elevator stopped on the 6th and he was there.” Her brow furrowed deeper. “Tell me, does he smell right to you?” Chepi asked her half-canine friend.

               “He smells like Vittorio, all right,” Tala nodded. “If he didn’t, one of us wouldn’t have wasted any time with introductions before ripping his throat out.” Tala growled, indicating her part-time feline companion, pawing at Fehed.

With another sudden chime of the lift alert, the elevator once again came to an abrupt stop on the 3rd floor, and the doors started to open.

                       “What, did you press every button on the way down except for the 5th?” one of the spirits whined.

      “Shut up and keep your senses open,” Chepi scolded. “If you guys are going to tag along with us, the least you can do is make yourselves useful.”

Fehed crouched at the door, ready to pounce, and Tala stood in front of Vittorio and Chepi, acting as a shield. The doors opened onto what appeared to be an abandoned hallway with a thick layer of cobwebs hanging against the walls, from floor to ceiling.

                        “There are things out there,” the spirit with childlike voice whimpered, barely above a whisper.

                        “Not things, little one... Spiders... big ones,” the female voice corrected quietly.

               “Damn,” Tala snarled. “I smell humans out there as well.”

      “Well, I guess we should check it out,” Chepi directed. “Fehed, you hold the elevator doors open,” she charged, pulling from her satchel a tennisball-sized orb with four glowing symbols on it.

      “You spirits gather round me. This orb will protect you.”

                        “Is it safe?” the childlike voice asked.

      “Very,” Chepi assured, as the spirits gathered around her. “Now, don’t panic... the sphere is going to envelope you all, but it will not hurt you. In fact, it will act as a shield to protect you from anything that might attack. You can use your chi energy to power the sphere for attacks as well.”

As the spirits were absorbed into the sphere, it floated out of Chepi’s hand and expanded to the size of a basketball.

      “Alright, now four of you should connect yourselves to the symbols on the sphere, do you understand?” Chepi verified.

                        “Yes,” the gruff voice responded. “What exactly is this thing, Mage?” it asked her.

      “An elemental spirit sphere,” Chepi explained. “The symbols represent one of each of the four elements. You can use your chi energy to power them to, say, cast a fireball or a lightning shield around the sphere; how many of you are in there exactly?”

                        “There are 20 of us,” the gruff voice told her.

      “Well, that’s good,” Chepi sounded relieved. “That means you can switch out, if you need to, so as not to fully drain yourselves.”

Chepi traced her fingers across the sphere and it glowed blue, red, yellow, purple and finally green.

      “There,” she nodded. “It’s sealed. Now I am the only one who can release you from the sphere. Do you understand?”

                        “Of course, Mage,” the gruff voice answered, with what sounded like something of a sly smirk. “Thank you for this gift.”

     “Do not think this gift comes free,” Chepi warned, as she balled her hand into a fist, and the globe froze in place. “You will obey me or suffer the consequences,” she threatened, her countenance darkening.

                        “Wait, you said we would be safe!” the childlike voice wailed.

      “Hush, now, little one,” Chepi cooed. “No harm will come to you as long as you do as I ask. All I want is for you to help Fehed stand guard over my friend Vittorio; nothing else.”

As she spoke, Chepi soothingly stroked the orb, sending a wave of calming energy over it.

                        “We understand,” the gruff voice grumbled ruefully.

                        “At least we will be safe from those creatures,” the female voice admonished sternly. “Chins up, heads straight. Things could definitely be worse. Remember what happened to our friends.”

                        “As long as I get the chance to actually blast something, I’m cool,” the bored male voice yawned.

      “Good,” Chepi agreed, and released the sphere. “Tala, you ready?” she looked to her companion.

               “I’ve been ready, waiting for you,” Tala gruffed, poised on the threshold of the elevator as the doors bounced back from her muscular form at repeated intervals. She and Chepi advanced into the corridor, careful to avoid the walls and stay in the center of the hallway, with Tala leading. Fehed took up position on the elevator threshold to keep the doors from closing. He transformed from panther form into that of a large muscular cat-man.

               “You ladies don’t take too long,” he purred at them.

               “You just make sure to keep that elevator ready for us,” Tala growled back over her shoulder. Anyone else would have taken her bared teeth as menacing, but her lover and mate knew well enough when she was smiling, even in wolf form, and flicked his cat tail in approval.


The hallway lead around to a lab that was covered floor-to-ceiling with fresh webs, and there were human captives in cocoons in some of the webs. Chepi silently signaled Tala towards the nearest human snack.

      “Do you think this one will do?” Chepi whispered to Tala.

             “Looks healthy enough, and still breathing,” Tala nodded. “I think we’ll need one more though,” she motioned a wolf-claw in the direction of the next nearest body, a female who was also still breathing, barely. Tala and Chepi kept an eye out for any movement among the webs.

Chepi conjured a fireball, while Tala stealthily used her claws to delicately cut the webbing around the unconscious humans. Flashes of movement appeared in the room. Chepi launched two fireballs just beyond Tala’s position. The webbing in front them ignited instantly. Chepi spun around, tossing fireballs in a perimeter around the foursome of the two companions and their rescues. The encroaching spiders stopped short of the flame wall.

Tala freed the woman, and, being less cautious now, slashed the webbing around the man. She threw one human form over each shoulder and ran back down the hall. Chepi, fireballs in both hands, covered Tala’s retreat at her heels.

Just in that moment, a fireball erupted on the wall of the hallway leading back to the elevator. They heard Fehed roaring, and sounds of a melee.

      “Frak!” Chepi cursed under her breath and pushed past Tala. She flattened herself against the wall leading to the elevator corridor, and peeked around the corner. “Great Spirit! The hallway is LITERALLY crawling with spiders! I’m not sure how we’re gonna make it through,” she hissed to Tala.

               “Couldn’t you place a fire shield around us?” Tala asked, as she joined up at Chepi’s side.

      “I don’t have enough energy to do that,” Chepi shrugged. “I used up a lot of energy back there in the lab, and even more against the beast I fled on floor 7.”

               “So what do we do now?” Tala implored, as she placed the bodies on the floor.

Chepi briefly regarded the stunned humans lying at their feet.

      “No, wait,” she cautioned, staying Tala with a halting motion. “Hang on those two for a moment... I have a plan.” Tala let out a mild grunt, but hoisted her double shoulder burden once more.

      “I just hope those spirits are reliable,” Chepi added, peering into the arachnid fray before them.


Chepi sucked in a chestful of breath, then whipped herself around the corner, launching fireballs at the nearest spiders as she moved in the direction of the elevator door at full tilt. She was gratified by the popping sound of their burning exoskeletons as she bolted forward. Fehed had his hands full at the end of the hall keeping the spiders off Vittorio. The Spirit orb, outside the elevator, blasted fireballs from one side, and lightening from the other. Chepi whistled, and the orb sped down the hallway to her position.

      “Alright, you guys, I need your help getting back to the elevator. Tala, move your ass!” she hollered behind her, as she placed her left hand on the globe floating before her.

               “Okay, what’s the plan?” Tala huffed, as she reached Chepi’s side with her dead-weight human cargo.

      “Take my hand, be prepared to run, and try not to bulldoze me,” Chepi barked, as she stretched her free hand back to Tala. “Monomeqe Sqihtehmawey!” she cried. A lightning shield crackled to life around Tala, the humans backpacks, Chepi and the Orb of Spirits. “Now, Run!”

They raced down the hallway, frying spiders as they streaked to the elevator. Fehed grabbed Vittorio’s body and hugged the elevator wall as they all re-entered together. Chepi lowered the shield around them, and Tala pressed the “Close Door” button.

               “Fehed, bring Vitto over here,” Tala motioned to where the human bodies lay on the ground. Fehed eased Vittorio down next to them. Chepi turned her face towards the wall, and shielded the orb against her chest. She winced as there was a noise like the breaking of an apple, followed by a wet, muffled gurgling. Chepi closed her eyes while the spirits babbled between themselves, arguing over what they were listening to.

               “My darling Chepi,” came a voice from behind her, male, with a slight European accent, now stronger, and more pronounced than it had been.

      “Vittorio,” Chepi smiled, still facing the wall. “Feeling better?” she held her eyes shut, not wanting to think about the carnage she’d just been a party to.

               “Yes, I am,” he walked over and laid a hand on Chepi’s shoulder. “Thanks to you and your...” he looked around the elevator at the group. “…friends.” There was sneer in his voice.

               “Don’t make me regret helping you, Vitto!” growled Tala.

               “Sit!” Vittorio blustered, motioning his hand downwards as he turned to Tala. She howled loudly as her body involuntarily lowered itself to her haunches. “Good grrrl!” Vitto grinned maniacally, patting her on the head.

Fehed slammed Vittorio up against the opposite wall. Vittorio reached behind him and pressed the button for floor 2. The elevator lurched to a halt, and the doors opened to the sound of gunfire and explosions.

               “What the Frak?” Fehed released Vittorio and turned to face the new threat from the smoke in hallway. Two figures lunged into the elevator. Chepi turned swiftly. Tala, freed by Vittorio’s broken concentration, leapt at the doorway, and the two figures slammed into her.

                        “Daayyumm, Girlfriend!” A slight blonde challenged the wolf woman. “What the hell kinda greeting is that?”

               “Rhiannon?” Tala squealed, squeezing the blonde in a giant wolf-hug with one arm, grabbing up the male with the other.

                        “Hey, guys, we need to find another way out,” the thin redhead in Tala’s embrace managed to croak out. “The streets are swarming with soldiers, and so are the 1st and 2nd floors.”

Vittorio tossed the desiccated, web-encased bodies out the elevator and pressed the “Close Door” button.

               “Well then,” Vittorio smiled at the group. “What floor?”

Tala gently set down her blonde friend, Rhiannon, and her redheaded buddy, Ezra.

                        “5th floor appears to be the only way out,” Ezra observed, typing into the keypad on his armband.

They reached the 5th floor without incident, and as the doors opened, they all took up arms and battle positions, prepared to fight their way through whatever lay beyond it, except Rhiannon, who squared her shoulders and dusted off her coat.

                        “Keep calm and mind the gap,” she stated coolheadedly as the elevator doors to the 5th floor opened and they found themselves looking at a subway platform. Fehed and Tala transformed back into human form.

Vittorio cleared his throat.

               “Well, this is certainly unexpected.”

They left the elevator and as the doors closed behind them, there was a flash of light and the doors vanished.

                        “Mind the gap,” Rhiannon smiled again with a wink as they waited for the next train.


LJI WEEK 9:
KEEP CALM


Additional stories from this world, in chronological order:
| In The Beginning  |  Escalation  |  Project X  |  The Woodshed  |
| Meet the New Boss  |  Back To Reality   |  The Interview |
| The Turing Test  |  Ohm’s Law  |  Hero’s Anthem |

Comments

( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
kagomeshuko
May. 17th, 2014 06:20 am (UTC)
*hides from the monster*
mamas_minion
May. 19th, 2014 04:19 pm (UTC)
You don't have to hide (: Thank you for reading my post.
adoptedwriter
May. 19th, 2014 01:23 pm (UTC)
Lots of nice action and great dialogue that moves the story. AW
mamas_minion
May. 19th, 2014 04:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Glad you enjoyed the story
halfshellvenus
May. 20th, 2014 12:44 am (UTC)
I like the chorus of spirits here, for some reason, and their disjointed clamoring. I feel for the little one. :)
mamas_minion
May. 20th, 2014 07:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you, I was hoping the spirits would breakup things a little a bit.
jexia
May. 20th, 2014 10:05 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed this, thanks.
mamas_minion
May. 20th, 2014 10:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading, glad you enjoyed it.
cheshire23
May. 21st, 2014 02:45 am (UTC)
I like the variety of characters you have here!
mamas_minion
May. 21st, 2014 04:25 pm (UTC)
thanks I like to mix up creautres whenever possible.
eternal_ot
May. 21st, 2014 06:50 am (UTC)
Whoa..what a ride...interesting take..full of unpredictable stops in between...Nice read! Good job!
mamas_minion
May. 21st, 2014 04:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you, glad you enjoyed the ride.
rayaso
May. 21st, 2014 04:52 pm (UTC)
This was wild! I really enjoyed it, especially the idea of a snatch and grab of a monster.
mamas_minion
May. 21st, 2014 06:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you I had a lot of fun with this piece.
lrig_rorrim
May. 21st, 2014 08:12 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed this - you've got quite a cast of characters, but they're all so distinct, and the action kept things rolling along really well. Fun! :)
mamas_minion
May. 21st, 2014 09:40 pm (UTC)
thank you I have been wantign to do something with therianthropes and vampires for awhile now and this one was fun to write.
mistearyusdiva2
May. 22nd, 2014 02:32 am (UTC)
Loved the monsters .... and then being a vampire girl looking for some vampire stuff from you ... Hope the prompts provide some inspiration for that .... :)
mamas_minion
May. 22nd, 2014 02:53 pm (UTC)
thank you for reading and I am sure vampires will feature in future prompt, I enjoy writing monsters when I can.
jem0000000
May. 23rd, 2014 12:05 am (UTC)
Wow! I was expecting another monster -- that is one messed-up building!
mamas_minion
May. 28th, 2014 12:54 pm (UTC)
thank you for reading my post.I wasn;t sure what kind of monster I would've added at the end.
jem0000000
Jun. 3rd, 2014 07:04 pm (UTC)
You're welcome. Mmm, it probably worked better without -- I don't know how you'd have gotten them out of there otherwise.
karmasoup
Jun. 11th, 2014 07:56 pm (UTC)
I have to apologize... I just realized after this week's episode that I forgot to comment on this original piece... this particular week was a very busy one for me, and I didn't get to read very many entries, or even reply to comments people left me, but I did check this one out, and though I failed to mention at the time, I have to say...

This started out like an amusement park ride, and kept up the breakneck pace the entire way through. Some of the dialogue here is hysterical, and I totally did not see that ending coming. Sitting on a platform waiting for a train actually brings to mind the opening and ending of one of the Narnia series books, though it seems one of the characters in this group has much more control over portals between worlds (or perhaps just space? It's unclear if they're in a different world, or just a safer place in the same one), which would be an awesome gift. (Man, how I could use that... bored at work? Zap. Golf course... not that I golf, but you know what I mean.)

Great job with this... looks like a fantastic set up for the next chapter!

Edited at 2014-06-11 07:57 pm (UTC)
mamas_minion
Jun. 11th, 2014 09:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you for commenting and being zapped out of work somewhere fun would be an awesome power to have and yes Rhiannon has that ability. II should maybe come up with a super heroe with that power the vactioner or Friday afternoon........
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )