Slow Learners

By Brian W. Antoine

November 19, 2010



All things considered, there wasn't much noise coming from the bar behind me. The pickup that was smoldering in ruins in the parking lot slightly more interesting, every few minutes one of the remaining rounds of ammo that had been stored in it would decide to light off. No, the very unhappy cop glaring at me from the other side of the defensive barrier I'd thrown around the area was what held my attention.

Kalindra had focused on the bar and its inhabitants, I was guarding her back by keeping the locals away until she was done. The first to show up had been an Idaho State Patrol officer who'd responded to the frantic phone call somebody in the bar had made. That same cop, minus the sidearm and taser he'd insisted on trying to pull on me, now tested and retested the barrier, trying to find a way through or around it. Watching as he scraped away some of the snow and dirt from where the barrier intersected the dirt road, I grinned slightly and said, "Sphere," which got me another nasty look.

"Mr. Antoine, I order you to get rid of what ever this damn thing is and let me and my people through to that bar." Gesturing behind him at the line of cops and ambulances backed up on the road, "There are hurt people who need immediate attention and you need to come quietly with us and explain your actions!"

"Nobody in that bar is in any immediate need, my wife is simply teaching a class in hunter safety. As for coming quietly, I don't believe ..." Even though I'd sensed it coming, I still winced slightly at the sound of something crashing through the big windows at the front of the bar. Looking behind me for a moment, I saw that my lovely wife had thrown most of a pool table through the windows.

"I see some of her students are slow learners ..." I said with the beginning of a laugh, only to be interrupted by a warning from my staff that I'd just been targeted by a laser. Turning back calmly, I saw a small red dot hitting the barrier right in front of my face. "Speaking of slow learners."

There was just enough snow falling to make it obvious which of the trees in the distance the sniper had climbed up into. Even as I started to raise my hand, the dot vanished, the sniper probably cursing himself for hitting the button accidentally. I pointed at the tree he was hiding in, then at a tree next to it, then at the sky. "You might want to close your eyes for a moment," I told the cop, then I dropped my hand.

We were so close that everybody heard the odd pre-strike click that sometimes occurs, then a lightning bolt arced from the heavy snow clouds above us to the second tree I'd pointed at and blew it into kindling. As the immediate thunderclap echoed around us, dislodging snow with its shockwave, I heard the sniper yelling as he fell to the ground and the cop cursing because he'd ignored my warning. Even with his night vision ruined by the flash though, he could see the three sapphire beams that now came from the mage light over my shoulder to target the other three snipers I knew were out there.

I raised my hand one again. "You may need those ambulances after all," I said, and I started counting backwards from five. Before I made it to two, there were yells from all three remaining snipers that they were dropping their weapons and climbing down. Each was tracked by my mage light until they were actually on the ground, then the beams winked out and I lowered my hand.

"Teaching a class of your own?" asked Kalindra from behind me.

"This seems to be the night for it," I told her without taking my eyes off either the cop or the crowd behind him, that was now rushing around franticly. Then I felt the pain in my shoulder, or rather the echo of the pain from Kalindra's shoulder that she couldn't hide from me.

*You tore your shoulder back open, we need to get you home* I could feel her becoming unsteady on her feet, but as I reached back to hold her up, she shook her head ever so slightly and reached out to put her good hand on my shoulder, so she could hold herself steady as she stepped forward to stand beside me.

"I believe the lesson is over for tonight, though I'll be back to teach a follow up class if my students require one," she told the cop and everybody else close enough to hear her.

Reaching around Kal's waist, I pulled her close to me to, then looked at the cop. "The barrier will come down a few minutes after we leave. When they question you about all this, remember to mention that pointing a weapon at a Mage is usually suicidal behavior." Reaching out with my other arm, I grabbed my staff from where it had been hovering next to me. Then I focused my thoughts and teleported Kalindra and myself to Tycho.

* * *

It only took seconds after our arrival before somebody noticed us, then everybody on the base seemed to trying to get our attention, all of them screaming about problems that needed our attention, or demanding answers to questions I couldn't have cared less about. And sure enough, I spotted Jean running our direction as well, the look on her face promising I wouldn't enjoy what she was going to say to me.

"Penny!" I yelled, as I concentrated and fired a pulse from the mage light that still hovered next to my head, over the heads of the crowd pushing in on us, towards the WorldGate in the distance. "Boss!" came her clear reply and I saw the glint of her shell reflecting the light as she arced through the lunar sky towards where we stood. "Keep the path from us to the gate clear of these idiots!" and I fired a second pulse, this one strong enough to cause an audible shockwave as the air rushed back into the beam path. Taking just enough time to flick a couple of controls on my staff, I activated the emergency override for the gate then left it to follow us as I scooped Kalindra into my arms and ran for the gate. With Penny running interference against anybody who tried to get in our way, and Jean cursing in fury, we jumped through the gate and heard it snap closed behind us.

Standing in the great room of our mountain home on Velar, the only sound coming from the drip of Kalindra's blood as it seeped through her dress and fell to the floor, I yelled "Wythdantis!"