Alec Swan lowered his rifle and leaned it against the wall, dropping one of his pistols next to it. He kept his backup in his waistband at the base of his spine. Paul Twitchell laid his pistol beside the other weapons.
Cory Nicholls unchained the prisoners one at a time, directing them to stand in front of the door. The last one was Madeline Oak. He held her in front of him as a shield, his pistol at her head. He tossed the door key down on the floor so the prisoners could let themselves out.
“Let’s go, people,” Twitch said. “Somebody drag this other guy out of here.”
The Luna Foundation personnel moved out of the cell quietly. Two grabbed Flaherty under his arms and pulled him down the hall toward the outside door.
“As soon as the hall clears,” said Swan, “we’ll talk about letting you get out of here with your skin.”
“Just do it,” said Nicholls. “I want to get away from here.”
Swan stepped back from the door, gesturing for the Foundation people to keep going. Twitch shakily stood on the other side of the frame. If Nicholls were to make a mad rush, he could knock Twitch out of the way and escape. That wasn’t likely with Madeline standing in front of him.
“Back up,” said Nicholls, pushing Madeline forward while keeping an arm around her neck. “I’ll let the girl go when I get to a car.”
“Don’t let him,” said Madeline. “Shoot him.”
“What?” said Nicholls and Swan.
“Shoot him,” said Madeline again, a little louder. Her eyes were closed.
“Shut up,” said Nicholls, digging his pistol in her cheek. “No one asked you.”
Madeline grabbed the pistol’s barrel in her hands, jerking it away from her face. The revolver went off, burning her hands. Another gun exploded near her ear. She paused as the grip around her neck went slack and dropped away.
“It’s over, miss,” Swan said, raising the backup pistol from his firing position. “Go join the others.”
“Where’s Floyd?” Madeline asked, ripping strips from Nicholls’ jacket to bandage her hands.
“We’re looking for him,” said Twitch. “Don’t worry, the chief is great at this type of stuff.”
“I am Morgan le Fay, as you can see,” said the woman, standing in her opened tomb. “Thank you for freeing me.”
Dark, shiny, flowing hair hung to her waist as she stepped down from the stone box. The long dress she wore glittered in the flashlight beams. Her armor had been magically restored to perfect condition; there was no trace of her long imprisonment in the coffin. Her hazel eyes did not share the smile she bestowed on the men.
“There was supposed to be a treasure here,” Joshua McCabe complained.
“Do you not think I am treasure enough?” asked Morgan le Fay.
“Yes, we do,” said Reed Horton, notebook and papers back in his hands.
A loud thump sounded against the closed door of the crypt. The men looked that way, startled by the blow.
“Hey, it’s Lawton,” said one of the gunmen, spraying the hall with his tommy-gun. The expended brass glittered in the light as it tinkled on the stone floor.
Floyd Lawton threw himself behind a statue as the bullets ricocheted in the narrow confines of the hall.
“Give it up, McCabe!” Floyd demanded. “That was probably Blake getting ready to blow this place wide open.”
“I am afraid he will be too late, Floyd,” said Horton, taking one of Morgan le Fay’s hands in his. “Much too late.”
Horton dropped his papers in the box, then dug into Morgan’s throat with his freed fingers. He began to chant quietly as he pressed her wind pipe closed. White light seeped from her eyes and mouth, drawing faint lines toward Horton.
“What are you doing?!” McCabe demanded, latching onto his shoulder.
A small line diverted from Horton to him, sending a surge of electricity through his system. He stared in disbelief as fingers grew back on his ruined hand. He dropped to the floor, his body strained to the limit by the changes wrought by the magic working on him.
Floyd snapped off a quick shot, trying to stop the event. A tremendous storm answered his effort, forcing him to drop back behind the statue. At least his bullet had served his purpose first by slicing across Horton’s arm.
Then a tailed, big-headed, scaly version of Popeye flew into the room and impacted against the tomb.
The scene was chaos as the newly arrived guardian demon called Nebiros flailed its bladed claws faster than a man could follow. Streams of blood flew against the stone floor and walls as bodies were vivisected in seconds.
With a supreme effort, McCabe kicked away from his agent, rolling and bringing his magnetic gun to bear on Horton. He fired at the traitor, knowing the effects were unpredictable against flesh and blood. The invisible beam seemed to have little effect on the Luna Foundation spy.
Morgan le Fay fell to the floor, her body seeming to melt away as her eyes rolled up in her head. Blood stained the corner of her mouth and eyes.
Floyd stood up, firing into the large demon with pistols in both hands. He was joined by a stream of bullets from the door as a grinning man and Adam Blake appeared in the entrance. He wasn’t surprised to see sparks from his bullets as they bounced away from the scaly thing.
“Kill them, Nebiros,” Horton commanded the creature, pointing at the three blocking the exit.
“Not your servant,” said the toothy thing. “But will kill Tempus for free.” Nebiros leaped at the man in black, claws extended. One hand grabbed a muscular wrist. Then the wall slammed the demon’s face with a cracking sound.
Horton frowned at what he saw. He was sure that no man could stand up to a demon, and he didn’t like what he had seen. He pointed a hand at the mystery-man. A fireball sliced through the air as he gestured. Blake pulled Nebiros back in front of himself, and the blast shattered against the scaly, narrow chest. The demon flew through the air from the hammer blow.
Cully Morrigan reloaded hastily. The former hijacker grimaced under his frozen smile as he realized he was on his last clips of ammunition. He took aim, intending to put a stop to some of this, or at least distract the turncoat until a solution presented itself. He fired, grimacing as Horton caught the bullets in some type of invisible net.
Floyd took aim. He only had one bullet left in his borrowed pistol. The other was empty. He pulled the trigger. The bullet bounced around the room until it creased the back of Horton’s skull. The turncoat fell over from the impact. The former Deadshot smiled as the smoke cleared from the barrel of his pistol.
Joshua McCabe examined his options. He was alone. Three guys who had no reason to like him were between him and the door. There was no treasure, and Horton was out or dead. There was no need to mention the unhappy demon flailing away at Blake with the speed of an electric blender.
On the other hand, he had been forgotten. He had Alexei Luthor’s magnetic gun and a regular pistol in a shoulder holster. It was time for him to be bold and decisive, and get away from the battlefield as fast as possible.
McCabe fired the magnetic gun at the four in the doorway. He almost laughed as the metal on the four exploded away from them. He jumped up and ran for the door, firing his pistol as he went. The treasure hunter slipped through the chaos he had caused and ran down the short hall toward freedom.
Nebiros blocked the exit as Cully and Floyd tried to chase after McCabe. He smiled at them with his dagger-like teeth. Blake’s foot smashed him out of the way. A fist slammed the demon’s head against the hall’s wall. It was enough to allow Cully and Floyd to slip by. Blake pulled Nebiros’ head the other way, slamming him against the wall on the other side of the hall.
“Stop, or I’ll shoot!” Cully shouted as he ran after the mastermind.
McCabe turned, raising his pistol to fire at the meddler. At least someone would die for this failure.
Floyd ran forward, knotting his ragged belt around a piece of one of his pistols. He spun the improvised weapon over his head as his new ally dropped under the two bullets flying his way. He flung the semi-bola through the air. The weight slapped against McCabe’s face, startling him. He staggered to one side, falling off the bridge with a yell.
Adam Blake faced Nebiros, his eyes leaking the green energy of his chi, blood flowing from his cuts and staining his clothes. He had a plan to end this once and for all. He hoped Horton appreciated the irony. The first part of the plan was to stun Nebiros to get working time.
The demon rushed in with its inhuman speed, claws slicing the air. A grab sent the creature flying to the other side of the chamber. Blake leaped after it, green heat surrounding his hand. He swung, directing his chi into the creature’s. There was a small explosion as the green energy was released. Nebiros was again blasted into the wall.
Blake figured he had a minute to start with the second part of his plan. He grabbed Horton off the ground, pulling the cross from his pocket. He dropped the man in the box that Morgan le Fay had slept in as the centuries passed. He dropped the lid back on the tomb easily.
Nebiros pulled itself from its niche. “What do you think you are doing?” the guardian demon demanded, wiping purple ichor from its face.
“I have total recall,” said Blake, slapping the stone lid hard in the corners. He knew the blows would fuse the sarcophagus closed. “I remember the words we used to seal Morgan up so long ago. Do you?”
Nebiros paused. “You are not a wizard,” the demon said. “You can’t possibly do that.”
Blake began to speak, words becoming a physical presence as he pronounced each syllable. Almost-visible waves of pressure rushed out from him as focused on the memory of the ceremony he had undertaken with those that had imprisoned Morgan in centuries past.
Nebiros stared down at its clawed hands. It knew that feeling well. Stone replaced the scales one by one, starting with its fingers and toes and working up its limbs with stunning speed. It leaped at Blake angrily.
“Tempus!” it had time to say before its jaw locked open. Blake caught the statue before it could fall, easing it to the floor. Then the mystery-man turned, walking out of the crypt. He still had things to do. He made sure to lock the chamber after he left.
Adam Blake watched as the group walked toward the village below the mound. Local lawmen had been called to take the surviving kidnappers away. Leftover explosives surrounded the main door. As he walked away, a simple thumb push on a remote closed the mound for a few more years.
He had shattered the cross and the door to the crypt before he had joined the others on the surface. He hoped that was enough to keep people clear until his watch was over.
Reed Horton could sleep forever, as far as he was concerned.
Joshua McCabe wished he could see. It was dark, now that everyone was finally gone. He had heard the magnetic gun smash itself as he fell. Blind luck had allowed him to catch some kind of outcropping. He had cracked a rib as he smashed into the ledge.
Now all he had to do was climb up until he found the walkway out. Then he would make his way back up to the entrance and leave. Then he would think about paying back Blake and Lawton for ruining his plan. And he would find Reed Horton and pay him back for his betrayal.
But first he had to get out of the hole he was in.
She sat under a tree near the mound, watching the line of people walk away. She hoped she had fooled Tempus with her little show.
Morgan le Fay had lost some of her power to that one, Horton. Worse, she had lost the thread of his thoughts. If he had died, all of the power he had stolen would be lost to the winds. Morgan brushed her hands over her clothing, changing it to resemble the style of the times she now found herself in. She stood up, wincing when the mound partially collapsed from the loud boom of thunder.
The man she’d once known under the name of Sir Tempus had not lost any of his tricks in the many centuries since her entombment; in fact, he had gained a few more. The last time they had faced with each other, Tempus had carried a magic sword that sliced through any material but Excalibur itself and the Shining Knight’s own enchanted sword. His physical powers had not been so great as those he had displayed today, but things change when you have slept the number of centuries she had.
She would have to get used to this new world and collect as much information as she could before she tried to assert control over things.
At least Merlin had been destroyed with Camelot, if her information was accurate. That was one less nuisance for her to deal with.