He left the lights off, but enough light came in through the big plate glass windows facing the parking lot to see fairly clearly. The office looked like he had left it. His furniture was still scattered around the lobby and an illusion still popped up and disguised it as something nicer when he stepped inside. Kyle waited for a long moment just inside the door for something to jump out of the back hallway, the front door, the ceiling vent or just a dark shadow and try to eat him. Nothing actually tried so he moved over to the computer and booted it.
The system came up and logged itself on then connected to the small wireless network Kyle had set up for the building during his first couple of days as a small business owner. Kyle launched the browser. Now that he was trying to find the most important email he may have ever accessed the browser seemed to take forever to start. When it came up, he crossed his fingers and pointed it to the site Jessie had been using when Kyle inadvertently logged into her account.
It dropped him off at the login page.
It’s OK, he told himself, you probably just went to the wrong email site. He knew that was a lie; Jessie used the same site he did. He hit another three sites that offered free email anyway and got a log in screen on each. Slightly desperate, he checked the system for other browsers. There was one. The shortcut on the main desktop was to a third party tool installed after the OS. Buried a few layers deeper in the system’s menu was the default browser. He launched that one and hit the same group of email addresses. He got the same group of login pages.
He sighed and stood. There was some magical equipment he wanted to gather up in the back. It probably wouldn’t have been worth the risk on its own, but since he was here it was worth the extra minute.
He walked into the hallway to his office in the back without turning on the light. Illusions snapped into place on the wall and in the near total darkness they looked fake simply because they were brighter than their surroundings. The software he’d used was pretty good at dialing the light level down, but it wasn’t perfect and the fake paintings and other detail work looked a bit like projected images. Kyle shook his head realizing he’d stopped to look and started to wonder how he could fix it. Now was not the time.
The light leaking out of both the illusions on the walls and his eyes was enough to navigate by. He hurried down the hallway and into his office. The real dreams board was there along with a few magical batteries. He looked at it fondly, but the board was huge and would slow him down if he carried it. He did, however, pull a memory card from the system. He also grabbed a few of the smaller batteries; things not much larger than a 6 volt would have been in an electrical system. He didn’t have any firm plan for the extra energy, but he doubted it could hurt. Next he crossed to his desk and pulled out the palm size autocaster.
That was all he needed; he turned and hurried back out and down the hall, managing to get just past the door to the storeroom when he heard a colossal crash from that room. In the quiet of the office the sound was loud enough to make his ears hurt and for a moment he had no idea where it had come from. That was unfortunate. It had come from the exterior door that connected the store room to the alley behind the building, and it had been the sound of a manticore smashing that door to rubble. Kyle learned these facts when the manticore in question charged across the store room and smashed it’s door down as well allowing it to fit into the hall just behind Kyle.
“Magus! I am glad to see you! Last time, you cracked my tail. Do you have any idea how much that hurts? I think not. I will show you. I will break every bone in your body!” Being shouted at by a huge hybrid of man, lion, and medieval weaponry would probably have been scary no matter how it was done, but Kyle found the voice of the manticore almost literally stunning. It was painfully loud and it seemed to stretch across a broader register than a normal human voice would have. One part of it vibrated in Kyle’s chest while another rung in his ears.
Perhaps that was why the beast was willing to stop and yell instead of just pouncing on him. When the monster broke through the wall behind Kyle it probably could have killed him via the simple expedient of attacking quickly. As it was, he had the tiny bit of breathing room provided by the death threats to use to gather his wits before it swung its tail.
The manticore’s tail was like a morning star. It was a bony knot the size of a bowling ball with spikes growing out of it in every direction. It was too long to fit in the hallway. Fortunately, from the perspective of the manticor, it didn’t have to. When the beast finished it’s speech and whipped it at Kyle it cut through the wall like a wrecking ball shattering the wood of the wall’s frame and sending drywall dust and splinters outward like projectiles. Had the hallway not been mostly dark, and had a monster not been trying to kill him, Kyle would probably have been treated to an interesting cut away of his office.
As it was, he was able to throw his hand up and shout “Dùnpái!” while willing magic into a shield just in time to catch the tail. It’s balled spike hit the arch of translucent green light that popped into existence at the end of his fingers mere feet before it would have intersected with his head. There was no sound from the collision but a big wave of heat rolled off the shield from the point of impact. Kyle wondered if the spell was converting the motion of large objects into thermal energy. It was reasonably easy to discover a spell for converting one form or expression of energy to another because there were a lot of configurations for physics where that sort of thing happened. It typically meant the rule set being imposed on reality didn’t have that type of energy but it had something similar enough to fudge one into the other.
Then Kyle wondered if he was nuts for thinking along those lines while a monster tried to kill him.
There was another explosion from behind him as a second manticore burst directly through the wall throwing chunks of wood and drywall dust everywhere. It was slowed just long enough by not using a door that Kyle was able to spin toward it and get his hand up ready to summon a second shield. That was fortunate. It struck without speaking. Its strike was also turned into a puff of heat.
Behind Kyle the first shield vanished, and he was forced to duck as the first manticore struck at him a second time.