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Booby Trap, Part I

Posted by Charles Gray on June 24, 2011

Booby Trap.

 

In the Aftermath of Terra’s expansion into the Galaxy, many earth governments feared dilution of their way of life, as they came to live on conquered and independent worlds, and for that reason many governments  instituted the boarding school system.

Fifty years later, most schools no longer serve as a way to keep Terrans from losing their culture, but as a way to maintain a continuity across planets and beyond, bringing children together who might otherwise have never met each other…

Terra and the Galaxy, Volume I.

 

“See?  I told you I had something!”  Jake said, his face glowing with enthusiasm.

Carla sighed.  This is too early in the morning for this,  the fifteen year old thought to herself.  “Fine, Jake.  What is it?”

“It,” in this case was a book, sealed with a number of locks and with what looked to be saurian script on the front cover.

“What?”  the younger boy said to the teen. “It’s a Saurian grimoire!”  The other two in the room nodded.

Janice, Jake’s occasional Girlfriend when he wasn’t driving her nuts, gestured at the book.  “C’mon Carla, you’re the brain in Savastan’s Basic Laws of Magic class.” The dark complexioned girl looked at Carla condescendingly. “You can’t be that oblivious.”

I’m supposed to be the assistant  dorm supervisor.  I will not scream.  Or kill them, Carla thought.  “I see what it looks like,” she said, and without touching the cover, used her forefinger to trace the sigils on it.  Carla frowned and brushed her thick auburn hair back with one hand, directing her annoyed gaze at Jake.

“This is old script,” Carla said, green eyes serious.  “Very old script.”

“Yep!”  Sora said, the naga wrapping her four arms around her torso, snake like lower body wiggling in glee.  “I can’t believe we just found it.”

“You don’t ‘just find’ things like this,” Carla said. “I think you got scammed.  How much?”

“What?”

“How much and who did you pay?”

“That old store by the skyport,”  Jake said. “Wilson’s Antiquities.  I was there during break and well, he had this in the back room. He gave it to me for only fifty dollars!”

Carla suppressed a desire to grab him by his long blonde hair and scream some sense into his ear.

“Fifty dollars,”  Carla said slowly.  “I can…” she paused, gathered her thoughts, then continued, “tell you that this writing is from an early dynasty. If it is real, it’s at least five thousand years old and you could sell a real copy for a few hundred thousand dollars.  Wilson has been bumping around the Silver Lanes for twenty years and he knows this.  So why did he sell it for fifty dollars?”

“He… made a mistake?”  Sora asked, her multicolored hair glinting as she leaned down to examine the book.

“No,” Carla said. “There are three possibilities.  First, it’s stolen and he wanted to get rid of it, which means that sooner or later the real owner will be showing up to get it, likely with a cop in tow.”  Now the three younger students looked nervous.

“Secondly,”  Carla continued. “It’s a fake.  You just spent fifty dollars on something that is a copy of a real books cover, with nothing on the inside.” Directing her glare at all three, she then pointed at the book.  ”Thirdly, he’s having a practical joke on you and when you open it, we’ll be covered in foam or stink juice or something else.”

“We can see once we open it,”  Jake said.  “I was going to unseal it when you got here.”  He raised a sheet of ritual paper, with an unsealing spell already scribed on it.

“That won’t work if it’s the real article,”  Carla said.  A prickling sensation started running down her spine and she shook her head. Not magic, but something about the book worried her. “Stop it, Jake, I want the faculty to look at this. If it is stolen, you don’t want to be the one who damaged it-“

“Hey, like you said, if it’s the real article, it won’t work,” Jake said in annoyance.  He took out his scriber and quickly finished the capstone parts of the spell, the network of symbols and words glowing golden as the energy started to flow through the ritual.

“I-“  Carla broke off.  The spell was running now, and she repeated the mental phrases that let her see the energies running through the spell, at least as well a novice like her could.

It didn’t take more than a second to realize something was off.  The spell wasn’t opening the book, the book seemed to be using the spell for something…almost as if it was being made part of a larger spell that had been held in suspension.

“Everyone out,” Carla said.

“But-“

Now!”   she shouted as the book started to glow and a whine started, something that the unsealing spell shouldn’t have done, even if it failed.

Sora and Janice were already heading to the door, as Carla grabbed Jake, propelling the thirteen year old before her.

Everyone outside!”  She shouted, her voice echoing down the junior dorm wing.  Without pausing she hit the fire alarm on the side of the wall, the klaxon adding its noise to the increasingly loud sounds from the study room behind them.

“Carla!”  Jake started.

“Keep moving!”  She snarled at him. When this is over I am goin-

“But-“  Looking back, Jake gave her some warning as his eyes widened.

Because of that, Carla was partially prepared when she turned around to see a thick arm, smash through the fall, as a bipedal creature emerged from the room, nearly too wide for the hallway. Glowing vapor came from a mouth filled with teeth and two glowing eyes turned and fastened on Carla.

No. Not her.  They fastened on Jake.

“Jake.  Run.  Now,” Carla said.

“I-“”

“Now!”  Carla shouted as the creature came for them, smashing through the corridor, its shoulders so wide they were digging furrows into the walls.  Sora and Janice grabbed Jake and pulled him after them, the screams of the other students filling the halls.

Ms.  Haversham left me in charge here while she went to the office. The other Floor Supervisors are getting the rest of the kids out, which means…

Carla reached into one open door, abandoned by its occupant.  He was  a sports enthusiast, and Carla thanked her luck as she  pulled out one of his large collection of base ball bats, this one a good hardwood bat.  Holding it in front of her, she started to back pedal as the creature moved towards her, or rather towards the fleeing Jake.  The skin was oddly made up, including chunks of plaster, wood and metal from the room. A fire extinguisher appeared to have been embedded in the creatures shoulder.

A spirit,  Carla thought.  Feeling the fear-sweat trickling down her face, she held the bat steady and racked her brain for a way to kill it.

Savastan had spent some time talking to his classes about spirits, unfortunately much of his advice on how to deal with hostile ones involved a fast pace while one ran for help.

“The most common spirits,”   the elderly saurian had said, his 3 meter high frame dwarfing the students, “either embody themselves using what we call ectoplasm– active energy  of a mystical nature, formed into a usable matrix, or they make use of material around them to give themselves a form that lets them interact with the material world. The first is harder to hurt materially, but far easier to dispel or banish, while the second may be harder to effect with direct magic, being partially anchored by real matter, but of course is easier to harm by using, ah, crude force.”

Backing off, Carla nodded.  It was having problems moving around the corridor, and it wouldn’t  have problems once it got outside.  But, if she kept it busy, the teachers would be yelling for help and so she’d only have to delay it for a short…

She shrieked as a claw (formed out of  one of Sora’s resting bars), nearly disemboweled her.  Ducking, Carla remembered her hand to hand combat lessons, and brought the bat up in a nasty swing, impacting solidly with the creatures “jaw.”  A human would have had a broken jaw.

The spirit looked like it might have noticed her.

That was not necessarily a good thing.

Okay, remember. It doesn’t breath and it doesn’t have a heart.  You have to do enough damage to break up the matrix that is powering its body.

And you have a baseball bat.

On the other hand…  Carla didn’t quite avoid another sweep of an arm, which slammed her into the wall, plaster cracking.

The agony that erupted in her side indicated that wasn’t all that had cracked.  But now the creature, evidently back to focusing on its main target, was passing her.

Because she couldn’t do anything to it.

“That’s what you think,” Carla gritted out.  She smiled, lips pulled back from her teeth, and looked at the fire extinguisher.

Not magic, just a regular CO2 extinguisher, with some very high pressure contents.

Biting her lip to keep from crying out, she grabbed the bat and brought it up before slamming it down onto the back of the canister.  If the valve was being held tightly…

A shriek of escaping gas answered her question as the canister took off for parts unknown, putting a hole in the side of the hallway…and ripping quite a large chunk out of the spirit on its  way out.

The spirit turned to face her, eyes glowing a darker red and Carla backed up, noting that the “wound” wasn’t healing up.

“Okay…” Carla said, “now, maybe you just want to go away?”

A roar answered her as the creature charged.  Carla tried to get out of its way, but one great hand closed around her torso, while the other ripped the bat out of her hand.

“Let-“ Carla’s shout trailed off into a scream as the creature brutally pressed down on her. She could feel something broken, grating in her side as its mouth opened to take her head off-

-and then a storm of saurian symbols, glowing golden, surrounded the creature.  A shriek was stifled before it could be completed and Carla was sitting in the middle of the wrecked hallway, a pile of random material where the creature had been.

“Are you unharmed, Ms Stevens?”  The dry voice of Savastan asked. Carla looked behind her at the elder saurian, himself nearly filling the hallway.

“I-“ she felt the hallway start to whirl around her.

“Of course not– a moment, if you please.” One taloned hand touched her side, and the pain faded to a dull ache.  “That will enable us to get you to the infirmary.”

“The…the creature, spirit-“ Carla gasped out.

“Disposed of,”  Savastan replied.  “Disrupting the matrix eliminated it.  You recall our unit on such actions.”

Carla wanted to smack her head, but it still hurt too much.  “I didn’t think of that.”

“Fortunately.  There is a vast difference between disrupting a lab matrix that is in fact designed to help a student do so, and doing so in the face of a spirit that is anything but helping you.” The saurian picked Carla up in one arm, like a human might cradle a toddler, and started picking his way down the hallway.  “Your actions were quite intelligent and effective.  You were simply trying to keep it from attacking Jake, weren’t you?”

“How did you?”

“I was happening by, and saw the chaos before Jake ran into me.  It is quite amazing how much you can say if you don’t stop to breath.”

“What was it?”

“The spirit?  A…what is the word you have for it… Yes, a booby trap.  The old Empire knew very well that their arts were extremely interesting to many and so took measures to insure that thieves might come to regret their actions, as would any buyers they found.”  The saurian made a gesture that might have been a shrug. “Such traps occasionally surface, which is why wise governments insist that finds be vetted by skilled individuals.  After all, there are other, worse traps you might have encountered.”

“So what do we do now?”  Carla asked. The prideful part of her wanted to say she could walk. The sore part disagreed.

“Get you to the infirmary, speak to all concerned, and then…” Savastan’s voice turned cooler. “Speak to the booby who managed to trigger this particular trap.”

 

End Part I.

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