Kyle found himself coughing hard. His chest was locked in thick convulsive spasms and each breath of air just made it worse. The fluorine. There wasn’t that much in the air yet, not anywhere but by the window, but what little there was way too much. Kyle couldn’t remember what exactly fluorine did to the human body. However, in general it was a powerful oxidizer and very reactive. Not the sort of things that went well inside the lungs even in the weakest of concentrations.
He clenched his jaw and stumbled toward the end of the hall where the stairs were. There was no real air movement in the small hallway. When he’d been hiding in the storage closet earlier he hadn’t heard the sound of HVAC or anything like that. He would have noticed it; it would have hidden some of his seemingly thunderous breathing. The air might be clearer by the stairs.
It only took a few seconds to get to the end of the corridor, but by the time he reached it his muscles were contracting sharply in his chest fighting to pull air past his closed mouth without Kyle’s consent and spots were dancing in front of his eyes. He had to breath, but he didn’t know if the air would be good. Then again, he could either do it voluntarily or he could pass out and do it unconscious on the floor.
Kyle pulled in a desperate gulp of air and with it came relief. There was a tickle in his lungs and throat, but it was workable. He figured he had at least a couple of minutes before the concentrations of poison got bad at this end of the hall. Still, there was no reason to hang around. He yanked at the door to the stairs. It wouldn’t open; the children had blocked it somehow. Kyle shot a look back at the production floor, there was an elevator to this level, it just happened to be across a room filled with malfunctioning equipment, deadly gas, and magic that might be breaking down.
Oddly enough, Kyle had heard the door rattle in its frame when he yanked on it. It hadn’t been drowned out by the alarm. That must have shut off at some point while he was trying to switch himself over to an entirely anaerobic existence. Amazing what you could miss while you were dying of oxygen deprivation.
From beyond the door he heard Alison say, “…be killed!” Kyle was willing to take a wild guess he knew who was at risk for death.
Sandborn confirmed that “He is the apprentice of the Archmagi and he has proven his is our enemy! If he dies here then even more suspicion falls on the Archmagi, and we have even more leverage to focus the law on them.”
Alison said something that Kyle didn’t catch and Sandborn responded in what was likely intended to sound comforting though it came out snappish and angry. “We are in a war! This is a revolution. People die during revolutions. If we are to win you must accept that.”
“If we do this, we’ll be as bad as they are!” Kyle had always sort of hated that line in movies. He wants to kill a bus load of nuns and kittens on their way to an orphanage for ‘Hug a Stray’ day. You think you have to kill him to stop the plan. The moral equivalence is a bit thinner on the ground than you might think. Still, Kyle was willing to forgive it because of the subject and because he mostly just wanted them to leave so he could blast the door off its hinges with his might magic.
Sandborn obliged, “Fine then, two of you got caught when your work went wrong.”
“What…” Alison’s voice cut off sharply and there was a thud against the stair’s door.
“Do either of you have a moral objection to success?”
Murrow’s voice replied, “She never really had the guts for this. A pretty face, good for recruiting, but not a leader.”
Kyle never liked Murrow. The air was getting worse. He was fighting not to cough and give himself away. In truth, he was about to summon his flair spell, send it through the door, and give it enough power to burn out everyone’s eyeballs, when he heard the voices on the other side start to get more faint. Alexander said something, perhaps a bit of conversation about the people they were leaving to die, perhaps an interjection about the weather, but Kyle didn’t hear it.
He flipped his hand open, “Flash.” Speaking that much was almost enough to make him cough, he clenched his jaw again to prevent it then held his breath while he guided the light to the hinges of the door. Cutting through them was pretty simple, and went about like it had with the janitor’s closet earlier. That sort of proved that there were things that can go wrong which don’t. The room could have burst into flame because of the fluorine. Apparently it wasn’t at those concentrations. That was just as well; it probably would have killed him. It turned out Sandborn had chained he handle of the door to the rail of the stairwell so it wouldn’t open, but without hinges that wasn’t much of an issue.
Alison was in the stairwell. She was sitting on the stairs slumped against the wall and at first Kyle thought she was unconscious. He’d heard her hit after all. However, when he walked in, she looked up and said, “Oh my god, you’re alive!”
Kyle wanted to say something like: No thanks to you. Only her face was covered in smeared make-up and tear tracks, there was a rapidly purpling bruse on her cheekbone, and she looked…. well very bad. Kyle couldn’t really figure out what looked so wrong, but she was grey and hollow eyed. It was a look of loss. So what he actually said was, “I have spells I’ve never shown you.”
Alison barely seemed to have heard, “The Agent, that’s what he calls himself, wanted to frame you, but I wouldn’t let that happen. That’s why I tied you up. The spell would have just gone off in a couple of hours, the building would have been damaged, but no one would have been hurt. But then he wanted to let you die!”
“A couple of hours? The spell fires off mid-day Monday.”
Alison wailed at that. Actually just let out a wordless cry of horror. So that’s what happens when she loses her cool, Kyle thought. Which was kind of cold but he hadn’t been having the best day and even if he wasn’t going to kick her while she was down he wasn’t well disposed to Alison at the moment. “Well, um, this level is filling up with poison gas, and Sandborn said he was going to steal an autocaster and kick off his plan anyway so I’d really like to get going. Unless you’re going to try to fight me or something, I guess.”
Alison looked up at him, “Sandborn?”
“The agent, his name is Sandborn. Are we going to go?”
It was sort of strange. Kyle had never seen someone pull themselves together quite so consciously before. A veil slid over her features and once again she was in control of herself. “No, I won’t make any trouble.”
Author’s Note: I don’t know if I said the story would be ending today, but if I did I take it back. Things will wrap up soon, but there’s a bit more next week. I’ve been doing too much overtime and just couldn’t get it all written.