Spacer Monster in the Maze 9
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January 30, 1987

It is with considerable pleasure that I report that Gretchen St. John, daemonmage, ex-Coven member, and all-around pain, is no more.
    Getting ahead of myself, yes, but I wanted to see it in writing—this is one story that won't be making the papers. To begin properly, at the beginning:
    The girl, or whatever, had been kidnapped from the hospital (we tend to refer to her as Phoenix's daughter these days, if only because it makes him uncomfortable). We had Chandler back safe, and we knew where Gretchen was likely to move for her final attempt at freeing the Wolf God—back to her tunnel haunts, directly underneath the Copley Place hotel/mall complex. She had forty-eight hours left to perform her ritual.
    Off we went, protected by the power of our good intentions (or by whatever power looks after complete idiots). Chandler came with us. Lucky picked the locks at a side entrance, and we crept quietly through dark halls, down into the parking levels. No one moved, no alarms went off. On the third level down, we found a guard.
    We were all a little tense; he was unconscious in seconds. It looked as if the badge had been ripped of his shirt, and he was carrying a gun—not usual for security guards, and what had he been doing way down in the parking levels? Working for Gretchen, most likely. My teammates traded brutal ideas for dealing with him until I spoke up with the thought that maybe we could just handcuff him to a pipe and be on our way? Those two can be so bloodthirsty they scare me.
    We continued through the echoing darkness until reaching a corridor that looked promising, strung out in our usual array. Lucky, as the heavy artillery of the group, went first. Phoenix, silent and invisible, took rear guard. I had both Chandler and myself as well shielded as I could manage. Good thing, too.
    Lucky had gotten well ahead of us, the glowing bar of her staff showing her position.
    "Phoenix? Where are you?" I whispered nervously.
    "Here," came the answer, right behind me.
    "Don't do that—"
    Ahead of us, Lucky smelled cordite, and cursed. Then the fireworks began.
    It seemed our enemies did not feel any need to confine themselves to magical weaponry. They had placed a rocket battery in the tunnel, and Lucky had triggered it. Her staff flashed as she parried madly; she only missed one, but no one dared to move for a long time until we felt sure that the tunnel's integrity had not been damaged in the explosion.
    "Everyone OK?" Lucky inquired, trotting back our way. I handed her my flashlight with a dark look, and we continued on, sticking a little more closely together than before until we came to a sharp bend in the tunnel.
    Phoenix brushed invisibly past me, launched himself into the air, bounced off a few walls in a way which undoubtedly broke the laws of physics. Machine gun or no, the guard posted around the corner was no match for him. The tunnel stretched on ahead, but we assumed from the guard's presence that we were close, and actually took some time then to make a plan. Chandler would stay with the unconscious guard; he could go for help if necessary, or at worst warn the city that it was about to be engulfed by Xyrgoth. The rest of us picked targets: no one was going to stand between Lucky and Gretchen, Phoenix would take on Blaise, and I would put Flicker out of commission to make sure they didn't all just teleport away again.
    It went surprisingly smoothly. Blaise was operating Flicker at a distance via mind-control, and he wasn't where he seemed to be, so it took me and Phoenix both a while to take him down and we never got hold of Blaise himself, but Gretchen quickly succumbed to Lucky's persuasion in the form of a blow to the head. Chandler provided a crucial moment of distraction by charging into the room, machine gun blazing, at the fight's climax. At one point the phoenix-chrysalis in the central pentagram began glowing fiercely, but that subsided once everything was over. Phoenix says that he actually spoke to Xyrgoth, though he's not too clear on what happened.
    I have never felt such pure triumph in my entire life. Maybe I'll get used to this after all.
    Once everything seemed quiet again we called in some backup and medical care for the wounded. Except for Gretchen, who we handed over to some people Chandler knows, some sort of interdimensional magic tribunal is my guess. That's the part that doesn't get to go in the papers; the normal authorities are a bit out of their league here, and someone has to see that justice is done. So she's taken care of, Flicker's out of commission, Silas is going to the loony bin, and the daemons are gone. Blaise is still around, but he doesn't seem the type to cause trouble on his own.
    Lucky's going to be staying with Chandler for a while. She thinks she has budding magical gifts. Why not?

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© 1999 Rebecca J. Stevenson